A unified ecological framework for studying effects of digital places on well-being

from Social Science & Medicine at http://bit.ly/2R9Pwh8 on September 28, 2018 at 04:01PM

Publication date: Available online 27 September 2018

Source: Social Science & Medicine

Author(s): Ketan Shankardass, Colin Robertson, Krystelle Shaughnessy, Martin Sykora, Rob Feick


Social media has greatly expanded opportunities to study place and well-being through the availability of human expressions tagged with physical location. Such research often uses social media content to study how specific places in the offline world influence well-being without acknowledging that digital platforms (e.g., Twitter, Facebook, Youtube, Yelp) are designed in unique ways that structure certain types of interactions in online and offline worlds, which can influence place-making and well-being. To expand our understanding of the mechanisms that influence social media expressions about well-being, we describe an ecological framework of person-place interactions that asks, “at what broad levels of interaction with digital platforms and physical environments do effects on well-being manifest?” The person is at the centre of the ecological framework to recognize how people define and organize both digital and physical communities and interactions. The relevance of interactions in physical environments depends on the built and natural characteristics encountered across modes of activity (e.g., domestic, work, study). Here, social interactions are stratified into the meso-social (e.g., local social norms) and micro-social (e.g., personal conversations) levels. The relevance of interactions in digital platforms is contingent on specific hardware and software elements. Social interactions at the meso-social level include platform norms and passive use of social media, such as observing the expressions of others, whereas interactions at the micro-level include more active uses, like direct messaging. Digital platforms are accessed in a physical location, and physical locations are partly experienced through online interactions; therefore, interactions between these environments are also acknowledged. We conclude by discussing the strengths and limitations of applying the framework to studies of place and well-being.