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Amsterdam Center for Social Media

Jeana Frost

Jeana Frost is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Communication Sciences in the Vrije Universiteit in the area of Health Communication and New Media. She completed her PhD in Media Arts and Sciences at the MIT Media Lab, a National Library of Medicine post doctoral fellowship in the Boston Area program in health behavior and informatics. After her training, she was a senior research scientist at PatientsLikeMe where she worked on both the experience design of the site and analyzing the effect of the site on users. Her work spans the areas of behavioral sciences, psychology and design in order to both understand the psychological mechanisms underlying behavior and create technologies that support people as they participate in their own health care. Currently, her research focuses on the use of new media by patient populations, healthy aging, patient participation in health care and decision making. In a second line of research, Dr. Frost looks at online impression formation and the experience of online dating.

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Selected publications

Frost J. (2010) Innovations in Participatory Medicine: The Advent of Do-It Yourself Blood Glucose Monitoring. Journal of Participatory Medicine. (link to article) 

Wicks, P., Massagli, M., Frost, J., et. al. (2010) Sharing Health Data for Better Outcomes on PatientsLikeMe. Journal of Medical Internet Research, 12(2):e19.

Frost, J., Massagli, M., Wicks, P., Heywood, J. (2008) How the Social Web Supports Patient Experimentation with a New Therapy: The demand for patient-centered medical informatics. Proceedings of 2008 Annual Meeting of American Medical Informatics Association. AMIA-0697-A2008.

Frost, J., Massagli, M. (2008) Social Uses of Personal Health Information within PatientsLikeMe, an Online Patient Community: What can happen when patients have access to one another’s data. Journal of Medical Internet Research, 10(3):e15.

Frost, J., Chance, Z., Norton, M. and Ariely, D. (2008) People are Experience Goods: Improving Online Dating with Virtual Dates. Journal of Interactive Marketing, 22, 51-61.

Frost, J., Norton, M., Ariely, D. (2007) Improving Online Dating with Virtual Dates. Proceedings of the 70th ASIS&T Annual Meeting, vol. 44.

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The subtleties of online disclosure:
Not all data is shared equally

By Jeana Frost

Social media and online health communities offer new opportunities for people to share knowledge and garnering answers to questions. Unfortunately, sharing health-related information on one platform heightens the risk of privacy invasions in general.

As a result, patients are left with the question: how and when should I share?

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Is Privacy a Thing of the Past?


Jeana Frost

Revelations about the scope of the US government’s National Security Agency’s electronic surveillance programs suggest that privacy is a quaint and outdated concept. Yet, backlash against violations of privacy online indicate that people still value privacy and see it as worth defending.

This has reignited the discussions about privacy and confidentiality and also questions about how people approach data sharing online. Early work on privacy and the Internet suggested a discrepancy between stated privacy concerns and online behavior, a phenomenon known as the “privacy paradox” (Barnes, 2006). While people declare themselves concerned about privacy, they still post personal data online and are surprised when unintended audiences find this information. In essence, users unintentionally and routinely reveal information that they did not in fact want to share.

Recent studies on Facebook and privacy suggest that users are becoming more sophisticated, but selectively so. In Sonja Utz’s study (2009), she found that university students concerned with privacy are more likely to change privacy settings. In recent work by Young and Quan-Haase, they find that respondents are more concerned about social uses of their online profiles, which friends and family can access accounts, than the institutional uses of data, how social media sites themselves share the data. The majority of respondents controlled who could view their profiles and the photos they posted on their walls, limiting access to their Facebook friends, but only one respondent mentioned concern about how Facebook, as a company, uses the data (Young and Quan-Haase, 2013).

All of this raises larger questions about what the effects of social media technology on the value we place on privacy. Some studies suggest that Facebook promotes narcissistic behaviors (e.g. Carpenter 2012), with the implication that users’ need for admiration sidelines privacy concerns. Another study suggests a more nuanced relationship, finding that rather than changing behavior, Facebook simply attracts those less concerned with privacy. What others perceive as narcissism is the increasing trend towards openness in the digital age (McKinny, Kelly and Duran 2012). What seem clear from recent research in psychology is that younger people exhibit much higher levels of narcissism, and that self-promotion through social media is implicated in this generational shift (APA, 2011).

Social media is still a new phenomenon. But research suggests that user attitudes change as uses of data become common. Despite our collective concerns about privacy, have we come to think of privacy as a thing of the past?

American Pyschological Association (APA). Reflecting on narcissism: Are young people more self-obsessed than ever before? Online at http://www.apa.org/monitor/2011/02/narcissism.aspx

Barnes, S. B. (2006). A privacy paradox: Social networking in the United States. First Monday, 11(9), 11-15.

Carpenter, C (2012). Narcissism on Facebook: Self-promotional and Anti-social Behavior,” Personality and Individual Differences, 52(4), 482-486

McKinny, B, L. Kelly and R. Duran. Narcissism or Openness?: College Students’ Use of Facebook and Twitter. Communication Research Reports 29(2), 108-

Utz, S., & Krämer, N. (2009). The privacy paradox on social network sites revisited: The role of individual characteristics and group norms.Cyberpsychology: Journal of Psychosocial Research on Cyberspace, 3(2), 2

Young, A. L., & Quan-Haase, A. (2013). PRIVACY PROTECTION STRATEGIES ON FACEBOOK: The Internet privacy paradox revisited. Information, Communication & Society, 16(4), 479-500.

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Online Design Toolkits: Social Media with Antisocial Consequences?

Photo: Customized Smartcar from http://www.smartusa.com/customization/

By Jeana Frost

Thanks to numerous online design toolkits, consumers can now personalize all types of products ranging from the relatively incidental, (e.g. a pair of Nike sneakers) to the costly (e.g. a Smartcar). And, they are not alone in the process. Thanks to social media, consumers can now join conversations dedicated to discussing products designed online. Websites invite consumers to join communities to design products together – a combination of do-it-yourself and social media that, in its best form, could resemble design school.

But does the ability to offer mass personalization necessarily mean companies should offer it to their customers?

Some existing research in psychology and behavioral economics suggests yes: toolkits seem to heighten consumers’ evaluation of products. In a set of quirky experiments, Norton, Mochon and Ariely have demonstrated that people value products more when they have a hand in their production. Dubbed the “Ikea Effect,” people report they value their own simple creations (Lego sets and origami cranes) more than those made by their peers. Research on psychological ownership and the power of  the idea “I Designed it Myself” reinforces this work by suggesting that people feel more ownership of a good when they construct it,leading them to value the good more highly. Although pride in personal labor seems to exist for Read the rest of this entry »

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