Research Publications

TECHNOLOGY: WORK & WORKPLACES

Kotamraju, N.P. & Ben Allouch, S. (2014). Employers’ Use of Online Reputation and Social Network Sites in Job Candidate Screening and Hiring. Living inside mobile social information. Boston University.

People’s online reputation–the information available increasingly in public or semi-public online digital formats–affects their paid work. While much attention has been paid to social network sites and online reputation in people’s personal lives, our research focuses on people’s professional lives. Our research examines how employers and recruiters in the Netherlands use online reputation information in the job selection or hiring process. Based on our analysis of interview data from human resource professionals and recruiters, we focus on three main findings: 1) the variability in the use of online reputation information in the hiring process; 2) the degree to which something ambiguously described by participants as “curiosity” drives this use, and 3) the unequivocal importance accorded to photographs of job candidates. We conclude by discussing implications of these findings for our study of online reputation, including both social network sites and social media in general. 

Kotamraju, N.P. (2002). Keeping Up: Web Design Skill and the Reinvented Worker. Information Communication and Society, 5, 1, 1-26

The flexible reinvented worker é gures prominently in accounts of information age work (Touraine 1971; Bell 1976; Zuboff 1988; Block 1990; Aronowitz and DiFazio 1994; Castells 1996; Rifkin 1996; Sennett 1998). These accounts argue that new media workers, in particular, need to be flexible, to often readjust to new technology and to reskill constantly. While these arguments normally emphasize the role of changing work conditions, in this paper, I investigate the formation of skill in the new media industry. Specifically, I ask how employers in the late 1990s framed a particular new media skill, web design, and how this skill set dealt with upgrades and changes. Using classified job advertisements, trade publications, informant interviews, and fieldwork, I document the articulation of web design skill and its boundaries. My findings highlight how skill definition, rather than work conditions, affects new media work. I show that the web design skill-set: 1. emerged as a fluid, rather than narrow and technically defined, set of competencies; 2. thrived in a tension between art (design) and code (development); 3. utilized web technology itself to create professional institutions; and 4. required constant skill maintenance and upgrading, what I, echoing an informant, call ‘keeping up’. I conclude by suggesting that the definition of what constitutes a skill is essential to one of the greatest challenges of new media work: the phenomenon of re-skilling.

Kotamraju, N.P. (1999). The Birth of Web Site Design Skills – Making the Present History. American Behavioral Scientist, 43, 3, 464-474

The fleeting life cycle of Internet technologies poses newchallenges to the pillars of scientific method, validity and reliability, in research about technology. Time compression—the concentration of numerous and rapid technological changes into shorter, erratic time cycles—affected the author’s research on Web site design skill, resulting in a disappearance of data that is unexpected in the Information Age. Given the intensifying digitization of human life, the discipline of sociology increasingly confronts a tension between an imperfect, realistic data situation with which history has already made its peace, and an ideal type of scientific method that was always challenging, but now seems even more formidable. History, the past and the discipline, offers tools and insights to address the complexity of time in the digital world and its effect on evidence and methodology.


TECHNOLOGY: LIFESTYLE & SOCIAL MEDIA

Shklovski, I. & Kotamraju, N. (2011) Online contribution practices in countries that engage in internet blocking and censorship. In Proceedings of the SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI ’11). ACM, New York, NY, USA, 1109-1118.

Abstract: In this article we describe people’s online contribution practices in contexts in which the government actively blocks access to or censors the Internet. We argue that people experience blocking as confusing, as a motivation for self-censorship online, as a cause of impoverishment of available content and as a real threat of personal persecution. Challenging ideas of blocking as a monolithic, abstract policy, we discuss five strategies with which Internet users navigate blocking: self-censorship, cultivating technical savvy, reliance on social ties to relay blocked content, use of already blocked sites for content production as a form of protection and practiced transparency. We also discuss strategies that forum owners and blogging platform providers employ to deal with and to avoid blocking. We conclude by advocating for more research that acknowledges the complexity of the contexts in which all Internet users contribute to the Internet and social media.

Kotamraju, N.P. (2007). Living Like Me: Lifestyle, Social Background and Technology. University of California at Berkeley, Sociology. Doctoral Dissertation.

Abstract: This article pushes the boundaries of the lifestyle to show its relevance to an arena of life that is less artistic and aesthetic than lifestyle research generally considers: information and communication technologies (ICTs). Sociologists increasingly claim that people’s lifestyles–their consumption and leisure activities–are replacing traditional anchors of identity, such as social class, in contemporary Western societies. Yet lifestyle research has traditionally addressed only a part of people’s lives, namely their artistic and aesthetic related practices. Using factor analysis and standard linear regression analysis on a large data set representative of the U.S. and Canada, this research analyzed four major lifestyle dimensions: socially active, career‐minded, trend‐ conscious and fun‐focused. The article shows that people’s lifestyles, even when controlled for their social background characteristics such as education, income, gender or age, shape their use of computers, the Internet, mobile telephones and email, in statistically significant and sociologically meaningful ways. Moreover, people’s lifestyles better explain their online activities than do their social backgrounds, which in turn better explain only adoption‐related practices, such as computer ownership. This research contributes to sociological work by recognizing non‐aesthetic consumption and leisure practices, supplementing traditional social background–particularly class analyses–and broadening understandings of ICTs beyond the digital divide debate.


DESIGN & PERSONAS

Kotamraju, N.P. & van der Geest, T. M. (2012) The tension between user-centred design and e-government. Behaviour & Information Technology: Special Issue on Service Design 31, 3, 261-273.

Abstract : The absence of user involvement in the design and development of e-government is often cited as a reason for the lag in e-government uptake. Drawing on our involvement with PortNL, an integrated e-government service for expatriates in the Netherlands, we explain this absence as a result of an inevitable tension between user centred design – the most common way to involve users – and e-government. User-centred design is a structured approach to produce interactive systems by involving users or potential users and addressing their needs at every stage of the design process. Governments, while concerned with their users’ needs, have their own considerable needs to address. We outline four manifestations of the tension between user-centred design and e-government: users’ and governments’ contradictory visions of the tasks to be accomplished; governments’ mandate to design for exceptions, as well as for the mainstream, governments’ and users’ differing commitments to the law and governments’ and users’ contradicting desires about the nature of their relationship. We conclude with observations about the design and development of e-government services to improve their quality and, thus, increase their uptake.

McGinn, J. & Kotamraju, N.P. (2008). Data-driven Personal Development. ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI), Florence, Italy, 5-10 April

Abstract: Much has been written on creating personas – both what they are good for, and how to create them. A common problem with personas is that they are not based on first- hand customer data, and if they are, the data set is not of a sample size that can be considered statistically significant. In this paper, we describe a new method for creating and validating personas, based on the statistical analysis of data, which is fast and cost effective.


RESEARCH METHODS

Kotamraju, N.P. (2011) Playing Stupid, Caring for Users, and Putting on a Good Show: Feminist Acts in Usability Work. Interacting with Computers  23(5): 439-446.

Abstract: As a feminist HCI agenda develops, feminist analyses of behavior must venture beyond the dominant liberal feminist approach to include other feminist approaches. Using the personal narrative or auto-ethnographic method, this article explores the gender in usability work, a common research practice in HCI. In this article, the author interprets three gendered behaviors that occur in usability work – playing stupid, caring for and about users, and putting on a good show – demonstrating that while these behaviors appear anti-feminist in a liberal feminist framework, they appear feminist in alternative feminist frameworks, such as relational/care-giving, sex-positive, multicultural, postcolonial and Third Wave. The article demonstrates how a feminist HCI agenda that embraces the multiplicity of feminisms necessarily forces a re-examination of usability work’s relationship to both feminism and HCI research methods.

Kotamraju, N.P. (1999). The Birth of Web Site Design Skills – Making the Present History. American Behavioral Scientist, 43, 3, 464-474

Abstract : The fleeting life cycle of Internet technologies poses new challenges to the pillars of scientific method, validity, and reliability in research about technology. Time compression—the concentration of numerous and rapid technological changes into shorter, erratic time cycles— affected the author’s research on Web site design skill, resulting in a disappearance of data that is unexpected in the Information Age. Given the intensifying digitization of human life, the discipline of sociology increasingly confronts a tension between an imperfect, realistic data situation with which history has already made its peace, and an ideal type of scientific method that was always challenging, but now seems even more formidable. History, the past and the discipline, offers tools and insights to address the complexity of time in the digital world and its effect on evidence and methodology.