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Using Social Comparisons to Facilitate Healthier Choices

This exploratory research examines how we might nudge consumers towards making healthier food choices in online grocery shopping or other digitally mediated food consumption contexts. Our pilot study investigated how different forms of social comparisons could be used to encourage consumers to reduce the number of calories contained in their online grocery basket. Our findings show that participants who were less interested in trying new diets were more willing to reduce calories when presented with a comparison to people unlike them, an out-group member comparison, while those who were interested in trying new diets were more willing to reduce calories regardless of social comparison type. These findings imply that one size does not fit all when nudging. More research is needed to see how social comparisons influence the effectiveness of digital health behavior projects.

DiCosola, Blake & Gina Neff. 2020. “Using Social Comparisons to Facilitate Healthier Choices in Online Grocery Shopping Contexts.” CHI 2020, April 25–30, 2020, Honolulu, HI, USA. https://doi.org/10.1145/3334480.3382877

The Gendered Affordances of Craigslist “New-in-town Girls Wanted” Ads

Sex-for-rent schemes have emerged on online sites as rental options. We analyzed 583 advertisements that were posted on Craigslist in London and Los Angeles and interviewed 34 women who were or had been in these arrangements. This research yielded four key tensions: (1) navigating innuendo (mis)interpretation versus preserving arranged ambiguity, (2) the guise of amateurism and romance versus persistent specificity, (3) calculated sacrifice versus narrative of a better life, and (4) consent versus consensual non-consent. Findings attest to the affordances online platforms offer by connecting geographically dispersed parties in a low risk, anonymous forum. Furthermore, present research joins discourses on the commercialization of intimacy and forms of precarious, gendered labor while asserting Internet features are pivotal in facilitating these arrangements. We propose gendered affordances to conceptualize how individual aspirational labor efforts, combined with platform affordances, commodify intimacy for sale on the moral marketplace.

  • Schwartz, Becca, & Gina Neff. “The Gendered Affordances of Craigslist ‘New-in-Town Girls Wanted’ Ads.” New Media & Society, (May 2019). doi:10.1177/1461444819849897.  

The Political Economy of Digital Health

The Internet and digital media are increasingly seen as having enormous potential for solving problems facing healthcare systems. This chapter traces emerging “digital health” uses and applications, focusing on the political economy of data. For many people, the ability to access their own data through social media and connect with people with similar conditions holds enormous potential to empower them and improve healthcare decisions. For researchers, digital health tools present new forms of always-on data that may lead to major discoveries. Technology and telecommunications Companies hope their customers’ data can answer key health questions or encourage healthier behavior. 

  • Gina Neff, “The Political Economy of Digital Health” in Society and the Internet: How Networks of Information and Communication are Changing Our Lives. Edited by Mark Graham and William H. Dutton (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2019).