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Researchers Awarded NSF Grant to Study Social Effects of Always-On Network Connectivity

Christine Broadbent Landaw • DATE: September 21, 2010

Profs. Aaron Striegel, Christian Poellabauer, David Hachen, and Omar Lizardo were recently the recipient of a $750K three-year National Science Foundation grant entitled "SoCS: Explorations on the Effects of Pervasive Networking on Social Relationships and Resource Planning" to study the effects of pervasive wireless access on social tie creation and persistence. The group will be exploring how the "always-on" network access afforded by today's smart phones change how students make and maintain friendships over the course of the grant. The work by the researchers will monitor how students communicate, be those communications the "old-fashioned" face-to-face communications, exclusively digital communications (texting, Facebook, etc.), or a mixture of both types. In particular, is the anecdote of two friends sitting next to each other texting rather than talking the new social norm or does the newfound wireless access actually make friendships deeper and longer lasting? The work itself will profile students over a period of three years, drawing upon the diverse demographics of incoming University of Notre Dame freshmen, and examine how friendships evolve by virtue of customized Android smartphone software. 

The work itself will be an inter-disciplinary effort bringing together faculty from the Department of Computer Science and Engineering (Striegel, Poellabauer) and the Department of Sociology (Hachen, Lizardo). Furthermore, the work will also leverage the unique knowledge and skillset of the Notre Dame Wireless Institute (http://wireless.nd.edu) and the Interdisciplinary Center for Network Science and Applications (http://icensa.nd.edu) of which the investigators are members. Details of the grant can be followed at the Wireless Institute website (http://wireless.nd.edu).