Presidential Post-Doc Fellowship Job Talk: Oliver Haimson

Fri, 11/17/2017 - 12:00pm to 1:00pm

Ehrlicher Room, 3100 North Quad


When people face major life transitions, they must make complicated decisions about how to disclose information about that change to the people around them. While such disclosures have never been simple, the pervasive and often public nature of social media adds many complexities to managing information disclosure. This talk will focus on how people present and disclose changing identities on social media during life transitions, and how these changes impact emotional wellbeing.

I use gender transition as a case study to understand both the relationships between identity disclosure, emotional wellbeing, and social support in online contexts, and how people experience liminality on social media. I present the results of a study examining transgender people’s transition experiences and emotional wellbeing over time using data from transition blogs on Tumblr, a social media blogging site on which people document their gender transitions. I analyzed text data from these blogs using methods including computational linguistics, sentiment analysis, and statistical inference, followed by qualitative analysis of in-depth interviews with transgender bloggers. I contribute an empirical examination of how people’s emotional wellbeing changes over time through the gender transition process. To conceptualize these results, I apply ethnographer van Gennep’s liminality framework to a social media context, and contribute a new understanding of liminality by arguing that reconstructing one’s online identity during life transitions is a rite of passage in our society. During life transitions, people present multiple identities and do transition work simultaneously on different social media sites that together act as social transition machinery. I conclude with future directions for life transitions research, which involve an intersectional approach considering social media’s role in multiple overlapping life transitions across the lifespan.

Speaker Bio:

Oliver Haimson is a Ph.D. Candidate in the Informatics Department at University of California, Irvine’s Bren School of Information and Computer Sciences. He conducts social computing research focused on online identity, gender, and emotional health and wellbeing in the context of life transitions as presented on social media. Through his research, he hopes to impact technological inclusion of marginalized users. Oliver is a recipient of a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship and a Rob Kling Memorial Fellowship. He has worked as a research intern at Microsoft Research, eBay Research Labs, and Georgia Institute of Technology’s Data Science for Social Good program. Oliver received his B.S. in Economics at Carnegie Mellon University.