Date of Award

Spring 5-6-2021

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts in American Studies (MAST)

Department

Interdisciplinary Studies

First Advisor

Stacy Keltner

Second Advisor

Nirmal Trivedi

Abstract

The COVID-19 pandemic created sudden ruptures in the ways many people connected with one another in their day to day lives. Though experiences differed, many turned to communication technology as a means to continue to connect despite COVID restrictions. For some this meant learning to collaborate with coworkers through a screen, while for others it allowed for a sense of closeness with those at a great geographical distance. For many, the seemingly separate spheres of the work, home, and social life all began to take place in one physical, and many virtual, spaces. Though it allows for a smoother transition to life at a social distance, communication technology is not always viewed as a positive tool. Researchers have pointed out the damaging effects that social virtual platforms can have on wellbeing, and the capital-driven motives of these virtual spaces translates to design that vies for the continual attention of its users. The question I sought to answer in this research was fundamentally phenomenological in nature, and I measured the experience and relationships to technology and virtual place using a combination of autoethnography, feminist analysis, qualitative research, and thematic analysis. The research question was how have our relationships to place, meaningful social connection, and communication technologies changed since COVID-19? Through my research I argue that communication technologies, despite their faults, have become places where meaningful social connections can occur. I find evidence of the rise in communication technology usage and a correlation between those who embrace the changes of the pandemic and those who choose to use communication technology to connect with small groups and to seek out personal interests.

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