Professor awarded nearly $1 million grant to study use of social networks

University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa
Posted: Aug 24, 2011

Scott Robertson
Scott Robertson
University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa Information and Computer Sciences Associate Professor Scott Robertson has been awarded a four-year, $948,537 grant from the National Science Foundation to study the use of social networks and new media in political deliberation, voter decision-making, and civic participation.
Use of the Internet and social networking sites to get information about politics is increasing dramatically, especially among young people. It is important to understand what information people are getting from social software and how it influences their opinions and choices.
According to the project abstract on the National Science Foundation website, browsing political material is a direct way of acquiring knowledge about civic activities, the operations of government, and the issues of the day. This project examines a fast growing, but little understood new type of political participation: online information seeking, deliberation and decision making in the context of Web 2.0 technologies.
The funding will support two graduate students and a post-doctoral researcher. The team will study how people use social software to find information, measure how social information influences the understanding of traditional media, and observe how social information influences choices.
One part of the research will follow people through several election cycles and changes in technology. The team will also design better online searching, browsing and deliberation tools. Better tools in the area of digital politics, and insights into how they work, will broaden opportunities for civic participation in the 21st century, helping to bridge the digital divide.
Robertson serves as the director of the Hawaii Computer-Human Interaction Lab at UH Mānoa.  He has a PhD in Cognitive Psychology (Cognitive Science specialization) from Yale University. His research interests include digital government, e-Democracy and e-participation, social computing, and natural language processing.
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