A social status perspective of network utility over electronic channels in academic communities

  • Sherif K
  • Song J
  • Wilcox J
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Early research on the social implications of e-mail has promoted the role of electronic communication channels in fostering social equality and reducing gaps between the social classes. Follow-up studies, however, suggest that people continue to rely on social cues in electronic communication as a way of dealing with uncertainties and reducing feelings of discomfort associated with unfamiliar contexts. Based on a review of the Social Cognitive Theory, social status and electronic communication literatures, along with the results of a previous qualitative study, we propose a formal model that indicates how self-perceptions of social status are related to the use of e-mail and the acquisition of social resources over electronic channels. The model is tested using data collected from 206 faculty members in a major U.S. university. The empirical results support the proposed model implying that self-perceptions of social status influence social assertiveness, which in turn reinforces the use of e-mail to seek help and acquire social resources from others. The use of e-mail for the acquisition of social resources is associated with a socially diverse network whose contacts are perceived to acquire valuable information and to extend instrumental support for career development. Implications are drawn for both theory and practice. © 2009 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Electronic networks
  • Social Cognitive Theory
  • Social benefits
  • Social networks

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