One of the more interesting articles I came across while on winter break was the dissertation abstract and presentation below on the role social network sites play as people adapt to different life transitions. The idea of "connectivity infrastructure" I thought was very relevant and influenced some of the points I made in an earlier post "Enterprise 2.0: A Transition From Destination Site To Platform Services". However, the organizational value is the more compelling aspect re: how these sites mediate the type of interactions and relationships necessary to master new roles and identities. For instance, within the enterprise, one of the more common value propositions of these type of sites is that they help onboard new employees - connecting them to experts, mentors, peers, and communities. When I've talked to folks in HR, the quicker companies can get their new hires connected into the fabric of the company, the more confident they are that the new employee will see how they fit into the organization, possible career paths, ways to get involved in various communities, etc.
The topic of "transitions" and its influence on identity is interesting and perhaps not always an area of focus within the E2.0 community. Yet employees go through work-related transitions all the time: joining a new team, beginning a new project, starting a new role, preparing for an event, playing the role of a mentor for the first time, etc. Some of the transitions an employee incurs are formal and visible (and may have official support mechanisms) but some are informal and invisible (with no support, leaving the employee "on their own"). Do these types of sites help augment the personal networks of employees in ways that enables them to handle these transitions more effectively? It makes me wonder whether organizations that do a great job at handling this type of employee "adaptation to transition" process are those that also perform better in some measurable way or are thought to have healthy cultures.
Title: Networked Information Behavior in Life Transition
Abstract : This study explores the supportive and informational uses of social network sites that facilitate adaptation to transition. This study focuses on the transition to college, a major life event requiring integration into new settings, the negotiation of informational challenges, and the mastery of new roles and identities. Adaptation to transition is a complex process contingent upon the management of stress associated with transition and general integration into the transitional environment.
Social network sites represent a connective infrastructure within personal networks. Because social network sites are inherently connective, they afford a location for provision and receipt of social support during transition, and a site for the acquisition of information necessary for integration into the transitional environment. Drawing on data collected directly from a social network site that describes the networked activity of a freshman class over the course of their first semester at college, from a sample survey of freshmen with 1,198 respondents, and from 15 semi-structured interviews, this research has two primary components.
In the first component of analysis, Fred explores the structure and dynamics of socio-technical networks during transition. Using exponential random graph modeling, he identifies the role and magnitude of preference, socio-demographic, and configuration factors in structuring socio-technical networks during transition. He then uses an econometric framework to demonstrate that certain types of information sharing and profile change are associated with socio-technical network growth.
In the second component of analysis, he explores uses of social network sites that facilitate adaptation to transition. Using multiple regression and structural equation modeling, he demonstrates that supportive and social-informational uses of social network sites in transition exert a direct and mediated positive effect on overall adaptation. He then draws on interviews to explore supportive and informational uses of the social network site during transition, finding that social network sites are useful in pre-transition preparation, for social adaptation, and for academic support throughout the transition. Upon evaluation, he demonstrates that a social network site is a useful place to turn for the social and informational support that facilitates adaptation to transition.