Technologies of Psychological Empowerment: The Role of Agency and Community in Blogging

Open Access
Author:
Stavrositu, Carmen
Graduate Program:
Mass Communications
Degree:
Doctor of Philosophy
Document Type:
Dissertation
Date of Defense:
June 21, 2007
Committee Members:
  • S. Shyam Sundar, Committee Chair
  • Mary Beth Oliver, Committee Member
  • Fuyuan Shen, Committee Member
  • Stephanie A Shields, Committee Member
Keywords:
  • blogging
  • new media
  • empowerment
  • agency
  • community
Abstract:
Internet communication environments have been lauded equally for celebrating the individual, as well as for fostering communities. On the one hand, new media technologies empower individual users to control various aspects of the communication interaction, as manifest in portals. On the other hand, they empower users to connect with proximal or distal others, as most obvious in chatrooms. It was not until the recent introduction of blogs that these capabilities were featured simultaneously, under the full control of the blogger. This dissertation proposes that through both their voice-enhancing and community-oriented functions, blogs are all the more psychologically empowering by affording users the psychological benefits of both a sense of agency and a sense of community. The present dissertation addressed the role of blogging in imbuing a sense of psychological empowerment in users belonging to traditionally underprivileged, marginalized groups in society (i.e., women), and tested the intervening role of sense of community and sense of agency in leading to psychological empowerment. A survey (N = 340) was first conducted to investigate women bloggers’ perceptions of their own empowerment, as a function of their type of blogging, motivations for blogging and blogging experience. Findings indicate that by affording users either a strong sense of community, or a deep sense of agency, or both, blogging is indeed psychologically empowering to those undertaking it. This was shown to be true for two different types of blogs, as well as for people with diverse motivations for use and various levels of experience with blogging. Due to the correlational nature of the survey, a second experimental study was conducted next (N = 233), in order to tackle more directly the two theoretical routes leading to psychological empowerment. This was addressed via a moderated mediation model, i.e., manipulating sense of agency and sense of community. Results showed that while psychological empowerment did not differ across the two types of blogs this time, it was again elicited by sense of agency and sense of community. Theoretical and practical implications of these findings, study limitations and suggestions for future research are outlined in the end.