My research for Superconnected

I’ve been conducting face-to-face and electronic (email) interviews for over 25 years in an attempt to learn all that I can about the experience of digital connectedness. To date, I have conducted over 200 in-depth, semi-structured multi-phase interviews and over 75 shorter surveys, in which I ask such questions as:

  • How are relationships at a distance formed and maintained? By which mechanisms and with what effects?
  • How does technological portability and mobility influence the nature of the social connections and groupings that are formed and maintained online?
  • What are the social dynamics of digital and online groupings?
  • How are individuals affected by their online experiences? do online and offline activities and experiences intersect and overlap (or fail to) in digital users’ everyday lives?

A sampling of excerpts from these interviews are shared in Superconnected from time to time to illustrate relevant points. They appear primarily in chapters that focus on themes with which my prior research has been most concerned: the social dynamics and implications of the online experience (Chapters 3 and 9), and the nature of the identities, connections, and communities formed in internet and digital media use (Chapters 6 and 7). While my methods are qualitative, illustrative of social forms but not generalizable to a population, I always seek to interview individuals who are as demographically diverse as possible on the basis of such social factors as gender, race, age, level of education, and occupation. Overall, my interview subjects skew female, white, and under 30.

In all my writing, and especially in this book, I examine an enormous array of related research, writing, conversation, and debate. I bring together together and synthesize ideas, understandings, and findings from such relevant fields as sociology, psychology, communication, information and media studies, and computer science. To do so reflects my deep interest in and instinct for interdisciplinarity, which I bring to all my research, writing teaching, and academic program development.

This wide range of literature and disciplines is reflected in all the topics discussed in Superconnected. While my approach concentrates on technology-rich, information-intensive North American societies, with application to tech-rich information societies globally, I sought and included, and the book speaks to, many studies of lower-tech societies across the globe as well. The result is an overview of techno-social life drawing on a wide variety of perspectives and findings, focusing on communities and societies that are characterized by a steady flow of communication technology and information, while contrasting this with lower-tech life.

Additional information on my methodological approach and specifications of my interview methodology can be found in first chapter of Superconnected and in greater detail in the appendixes of my books Portable Communities and Connecting.

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