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

Karma Sherif, Jaeki Song, James Wilcox

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


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.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)262-271
Number of pages10
JournalInternational Journal of Information Management
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 2009


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


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