Academic Research

I research the antecedents and social and psychological consequences of computer-mediated communication in social media and virtual worlds. I am particularly interested in long-term usage of technology, which is important when trying to understand and improve technology that is designed for pro-social behaviors. I focus on a research paradigm that I call ‘computer-integrated communication. This paradigm views computers not as a neutral mediator of communication, but one where the technology plays an active part in the communication process and outcomes, such as how design and algorithms can influence people’s perceptions and behavior.

I am a mixed-methods person using both qualitative (e.g., interviews, focus groups, ethnography) and quantitative methods (e.g., surveys, experiments, big data analysis, content analysis, modeling) to answer my research questions.

I’ve tried to categorize my projects below and provide a few publications that are most representative of that topic. The categories are not mutually exclusive. Many projects overlap between the different categories (e.g., habits & education, education & games, habits & games).


Media habits

Most media studies focus on people’s intentions and conscious motivations, but what happens when your media use becomes habitual, and you are not really thinking about what you’re doing? I am interested in the social, psychological effects of non-conscious media use, and the process of non-conscious media use formation. I look at different types of social media, including social network sites, peer-production online communities, and social games, pairing behavioral measures with self-report.

My early work focused on identification of habitual use in different types of media such as social games and how habitual use of social media was related to motivations (Wohn et al., 2010; Wohn, 2012). I also examined how habitual use of social media and compulsive use of social media predicted different outcomes such as educational motivation (LaRose, Wohn, Ellison, & Steinfield, 2011), interpersonal relationships (Wohn & Lee, 2012, May), and participation in online peer-production communities (Wohn, Velasquez, Bjornrud, & Lampe, 2012). My dissertation examined the interaction of motivation and habit on behavioral intention. Currently, I am doing a study that examines mobile media habits by tracking people’s actual behavior on their mobile phones.

  • Wohn, D. Y. (2012). The role of habit strength in social network game play. Communication Research Reports, 29, 74-79.
  • Wohn, D. Y., Velasquez, A., Bjornrud, T., & Lampe, C. (2012). Habit as an explanation of participation in an online peer-production community. In J. A. Konstan (Ed.), Proceedings of the 2012 ACM annual conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI ’12), pp. 2905-2914. New York, NY: ACM.

Technology and Health / Psychological well-being

I am interested in the relationship between psychological well-being / mental health and technology usage. Most of this work centers around the concept of social support and how technologies facilitate supportive (or unsupportive) behaviors.

Digital Games

My research on games represents my love of digital games and reflects the growing female population of game players. Most research on digital games has focused on console games or massively multiplayer online games that are action-oriented, graphically sophisticated, and time intensive. These games typically attract male players. The games I am interested in are more simplistic in nature and are mostly played on social network sites or mobile media. The most interesting aspect of these casual games are when they played with other people. I found that people perceive simple exchange behaviors in the game as a form of communication and that this lightweight gaming behavior can positively influence interpersonal relationships.

Games are also a useful tool to study individual characteristics of the players, such as personality. I found that the way in which people design their virtual spaces in a city simulation game strongly correlated with their self-reported personality. Most recently, I am looking at motivations of fantasy sports players with a grant from Yahoo.

  • Wohn, D. Y., & Wash, R. (2013). A virtual “room” with a cue: Detecting personality through spatial customization in a city simulation game. Computers in Human Behavior, 29, 155-159.
  • Lee, Y-H., & Wohn, D. Y. (2012). Are there cultural differences in how we play? Examining cultural effects on playing social network games. Computers in Human Behavior, 28, 1307-1314.
  • Wohn, D. Y. (2011). Gender and race representation in casual games. Sex Roles, 65, 198-207.
  • Wohn, D. Y., Lampe, C., Wash, R., Ellison, N., & Vitak, J. (2011). The “S” in social network games: Initiating, maintaining, and enhancing relationships. In Ralph H. Sprague, Jr. (Ed.), Proceedings of the 44th Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences (HICSS), pp. 1-10. IEEE Computer Society

News Consumption in the Age of Social Media

Crystallization is a network model of information flow and reality formation. This model incorporates network theory into the traditional agenda-setting theory and proposes that members of one’s social networks become “neo agenda setters.” We are also doing empirical work on how people consume news through mobile social media and serendipitous discovery of news on social media

  • Wohn, D. Y., & Bowe, B. J. (2014). How social media facilitates social construction of reality. In Proceedings of companion publication of CSCW 2014, 261-264. New York, NY: ACM
  • Wohn, D. Y., & Bowe, B. J. (2011). Crystallization theory: Construction of reality in the age of social media. Presented at the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication Conference. St. Louis, MO
  • Bowe, B. J., & Wohn, D. Y. (2015). Are There Generational Differences? Social Media Use and Perceived Shared Reality. In Proceedings of Social Media and Society Conference. New York, NY: ACM

Role of Feedback in Online Communities

A growing area of research that strongly overlaps with my interest in habit, is how feedback is perceived by users in online communities. The most recent work that I’ve done in this area looks at the role of paralinguistic digital affordances– simple types of feedback such as “Likes” on Facebook- on perceived social support.

  • Hayes, R., Carr, C. T., & Wohn, D. Y. (2016). One click, many meanings: Interpreting paralinguistic digital affordances in social media. Journal of Broadcasting and Electronic Media
  • Walther, J. B., Liang, Y., Ganster, T., Wohn, D. Y., & Emington, J. (2012). Online reviews, helpfulness ratings, and consumer attitudes: An extension of congruity theory to multiple sources in Web 2.0. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 18, 97-112.
  • Sarkar, C., Wohn, D. Y., & Lampe, C. (2012). A quantitative explanation of governance in a peer-production online community. In J. A. Konstan (Ed.), Proceedings of the 2012 ACM annual conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI ’12), pp. 2939-2942. New York, NY: ACM


Social Media and Education

I have authored several studies looking at the relationship between social media usage and education. The first study was of students’ use of Facebook for classroom-related purposes. I also looked at the effect of compulsive use of Facebook on academic motivation and academic performance. More recently, I have been involved in a project funded by the Gates Foundation to look at college aspirations of socio-economically disadvantaged high school students and examining how social media affects first-generation students’ efficacy of college application processes and perception of college success.

  • Wohn, D. Y., Ellison, N. B.,  Khan, M. L., & Fewins-Bliss, R., & Gray, R. (2013). The Role of Social Media in Shaping First-Generation High School Students’ College Aspirations: A Social Capital Lens. Computers & Education
  • Lampe. C., Wohn, D. Y., Vitak, J., Ellison, N., Wash, R. (2011). Student use of Facebook for organizing collaborative classroom activities. International Journal of Computer Supported Collaborative Learning, 6, 329-347.

Impression Management in Social Media

In social network sites such as Facebook, others sometimes post content of oneself that is inconsistent with one’s self-image. People react in different ways to face-threatening content about them that was posted by others on Facebook. We examine factors that are associated with one’s likelihood of using a particular reactive strategy and the relational consequences that these reactions have.

Interpersonal Attention Management on Mobile Phones

There are different types of communication strategies that people engage in when they are trying to capture others’ attention (i.e., to garner a response and/or start a conversation) and respond to others’ requests for attention. In face-to-face settings, there are established norms for managing our attention and engaging others in conversation, such as glancing, gazing, and physical proximity. How does attention management work when people are not co-located and communicating through a mobile device? To explore this research question, we are taking a multi-method approach through in-depth interviews and development of a mobile application that records people’s mobile phone activities.

Collaboration in Social Network Sites

As part of an NSF-supported grant, I examined how people were engaging in ad-hoc collaboration in social network sites such as Facebook.

  • Lampe. C., Wohn, D. Y., Vitak, J., Ellison, N., Wash, R. (2011). Student use of Facebook for organizing collaborative classroom activities. International Journal of Computer Supported Collaborative Learning, 6, 329-347.
  • Wohn, D. Y., Lampe, C., Vitak, J., & Ellison, N. (2011). Coordinating the ordinary: Social information uses of Facebook by adults. In Proceedings of the 2011 iConference, pp. 340- 347. New York, NY: ACM

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