I am an Associate Professor at the Department of Communication, University of California, Davis. My research and teaching interests revolve around the structure and impact of social networks in virtual worlds. These sites include social networking websites (such as Facebook), Massively Multiplayer Online Games (such as EverQuest II and EVE Online), and other online communities designed for collaborative peer production, social support and entertainment. In my research I try to match "big data" from behavioral logs with "smaller data" collected from surveys and experiments. 

I have published my work in top-ranked journals such as Communication Research, Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, Social NetworksNew Media & SocietyCyberpsychology, Behavior and Social Networkingand Management Communication QuarterlyMy recent research on massively multiplayer online game has been featured in major media outlets, including US News and World Report (link to news article).

I received my Ph.D. in 2010 from the Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism, University of Southern California. Before coming to Annenberg, I earned my BA in English at Zhejiang University and my MA in Communication and New Media at National University of Singapore. Originally I come from Suzhou, a beautiful city in southeast China.

Here is my current CV. Most of my work can be downloaded for free at that page. I can be reached at shencuihua AT gmail dot com. 

What's New

  • I am joining the Comm Dept at UC Davis
    Happy to report that I am joining the Department of Communication at University of California, Davis this summer. I have had the great fortune to work at EMAC@UT Dallas and witness its phenomenal growth over the four short years I spent in Dallas. I will definitely miss the awesome students and colleagues at UTD. But my family and I are also very happy to be back to California!
    Posted May 21, 2014, 5:12 PM by Cuihua Shen
  • Accepted: Evolution of online ties
    Happy to announce that my paper with Peter Monge and Dmitri Williams, on the evolutionary dynamics of online ties, was accepted at Journal of American Society of Information Science and Technology (JASIST). It was the last of the three articles based on my dissertation work of EverQuest II gamers. 

    The Evolution of Social Ties Online: A Longitudinal Study in a Massively Multiplayer Online Game

    How do social ties in online worlds evolve over time? This research examined the dynamic processes of relationship formation, maintenance, and demise in a massively multiplayer online game. Drawing from evolutionary and ecological theories of social networks, this study focuses on the impact of three sets of evolutionary factors in the context of social relationships in the online game EverQuest II (EQII): the aging and maturation processes, social architecture of the game, and homophily and proximity. A longitudinal analysis of tie persistence and decay demonstrated the transient nature of social relationships in EQII, but ties became considerably more durable over time. Also, character level similarity, shared guild membership and geographic proximity were powerful mechanisms in preserving social relationships.

    Keywords: social networks, network evolution, online games, MMOG, link decay
    Posted Sep 27, 2013, 9:18 AM by Cuihua Shen
  • Work on offline meetups featured
    My work with Chuck Cage on offline meetups and online community participation was recently featured on the UT Dallas EMAC website. You can read about it here
    Posted Feb 28, 2013, 6:21 PM by Cuihua Shen
  • Some old news
    As I am slowly updating my website, here is a recap of what happened in the last two years:

    • My paper with Peter Monge, "Who connects with whom? A social network analysis of an online open source software community" has been published as the Lead Article in the June issue of First Monday (link).
    • My work on massively multiplayer online games has recently been featured in US News and World Report (link), Pegasus News (link), UT Dallas News (link), Baidu (link), Xinhuanet (link) and Sohu (link), among others.
    • My dissertation, "The Patterns, Effects and Evolution of Player Networks in Online Gaming Communities" received the 2nd place of Herbert S. Dordick Dissertation Award from ICA.
    • I was quoted in the Spring 2011 issue of Stanford Social Innovation Reviewon the impact of MMOs on civic engagement.
    • My paper with Dmitri Williams, "Unpacking time online: Connecting Internet and MMO use with psychosocial well-being," has been published in the February 2011 issue of Communication Research (Pre-print version). 
    • On Aug 26, 2010, I successfully defended my dissertation, The Patterns, Effects and Evolution of Player Social Networks in Online Gaming Communities. A copy of the dissertation is available here.  
    • Our paper, "Schmoozing and Smiting: Trust, Social Institutions and Communication Patterns in an MMOG," was recently published at Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication. (Full Article)
    Posted Feb 28, 2013, 6:12 PM by Cuihua Shen
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