Research

My research focuses on the impact of communication technology on people’s everyday lives. Interestingly, any new technology sparks a two-sided debate both in society and academic circles: On the one hand, we find ourselves celebrating technology’s potential to create new social dynamics and to empower individuals, but on the other hand, we are paranoid by potential negative consequences such as e.g., ubiquitous surveillance, exploitations of behavioral processes by large companies, or the loss of control over media use. In order to make informed decisions and to provide adequate recommendations in this debate, I aim at understanding both positive and negative effects of communication technologies on people’s attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors. In my recent work, I focus particularly on understanding how networked environments (e.g., social network sites, instant messenger,…) determine people’s privacy perceptions and how these, in turn, influence their communication behavior and their relationships with and their evaluations of other people, companies, and institutions.

In my work, I ask what knowledge, skills, and abilities people need in order to deal with the challenges of new online environments. The collapse of formerly distinct social contexts, the convergence of traditional media, the large-scale data collection by providers and institutions, or new media’s potential to occupy people’s minds in new ways require individuals to take elaborate and oftentimes difficult decisions when communicating and acting in multimodal online environments. What characterizes these challenges? How do they affect people’s lives, their well-being, and their communication routines? How do people cope with these novel challenges? What norms emerge from novel communication technologies and how does they influence people’s behavior? And finally, how can we empower individuals and strengthen their self-determination in these modern media environments?

Prior research has often focused on conducting (cross-sectional) surveys and thus on investigating communication processes from a general or aggregative perspective (i.e., a between-person perspective). In my recent work, I try to overcome this limitation by adopting a situational approach. I developed theoretical approaches that allow to analyze how both non-situational factors (e.g., stable person characteristics such as personality or skills) as well as situational factors (both personal and environmental factors that vary across different situations) affect people’s behavior. I believe that we can only truly understand people’s choices and behaviors by considering both situational circumstances and person characteristics as well as their potential interactions.