We’re In It Together: Interpersonal Management of Disclosure in Social Network Services

Yesterday was the last day of CHI 2011 and, also, the day we were scheduled to give the talk on our paper We’re in it together: interpersonal management of disclosure in social network services. And so I did, with my co-author Vilma Lehtinen also in the room to take questions and meet colleagues. Taken that we were slotted to the last paper session of the last day of the conference, we were delighted by the sizable crowd that came to our talk.

We’re in it together summarizes a year of research we conducted in 2009-2011 on how students who use social network services view issues of control over disclosure and on the ways in which they deal with related challenges. Users of SNSs often make efforts to balance with both privacy and publicness: what to share, with whom, and with what consequences. We were especially interested in understanding how people perceive the fact that while they do have some liberty to build up their profile and presence as they wish, others can also post content that is either directly about them or that in some other way affects them and their network. In considering our results, it is important to bear in mind that we talked with 27 university students – so while their experiences are important and the concepts we present apply more widely, we do not make quantitative claims of what the millions of SNS users around the globe do or don’t.

In (very) brief, we found that shared rules of disclosure are rarely discussed although there is a strong reliance on mutual consideration. Looking into the ways in which users of SNS manage disclosure, we found that individual, preventive strategies were most varied. A number of corrective strategies -both individual and collaborative- were found, too, but they had many faults: they were seen as ineffective, sometimes counterproductive as they could easily backfire, and, when it comes to collaborative corrective strategies, awkward to use, as these questioned the trust on which interaction relied. Finally, there were few preventive collaborative strategies in place and, what is more, these were mostly not supported by technology. This is where we see a design space opening – one in which we hope to see activity in years to come.

For more details on the study, you can read the paper, look at the slides below (although without the talk that goes with them, they tell only part of the story), or read this news piece from ScienceDaily.

Back from the biggest conference of the spring and the semester now behind us, we are looking forward to gathering new data as well as sitting down to think about next publications – and those, at least to me, are some of the most exciting moments in research.

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One Response to We’re In It Together: Interpersonal Management of Disclosure in Social Network Services

  1. […] nicknames but not restrict the information within the profile. More than these basic precautions, Lampinen shows that “users choose a variety of strategies, such as self-censorship and withdrawal of data, choosing […]

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