Abstract

Social inclusion has become a pressing issue for organizations that wish to close the gap of inequalities and disparities among underrepresented or disadvantaged groups. The challenge is becoming particularly critical in higher education institutions that are suffering from low retention rates and low graduation rates among first-generation college students (FGCS). In response to the challenges imposed by the notion of social inclusion, some universities and colleges are exploring the use of social networking technologies such as social media (SM) and its capabilities to facilitate the technology use that impacts social inclusion. In order to contribute to our understanding of how social networking technology affects social inclusion of FGCS, we conduct a case study in a public, Hispanic-serving institution in the United States. We use the technology affordance theory to uncover the various affordances actualized by FGCS and the various outcomes resulting from the affordances. Following an established five-step framework for identifying generative mechanism, our analysis of 102 FGCS’ narratives revealed three SM user types – “The community builder,” “The Scholars,” and “The Information Seekers” and four actualized affordances – Interconnection, Inspiration, Insightfulness, and Intense Comfort – that are conceptualized into three generative mechanisms – identity booster, academic growth, and self-care – to explain how the actualization of different strands of affordance produces certain outcomes. Our results provide insights about usage for social inclusion outcomes. By revealing how technology use can promote social engagement and mitigate exclusion experienced by FGCS, this study contributes to the broad social inclusion research on technology and disadvantaged communities.

DOI

10.17705/1jais.00792

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