Monday, February 21, 2011

Session 4--Social role, capital and trust

While it's tempting to abandon the planned course structure and hold another current event driven session akin to the first--this time about the role of social computing in the political upheaval in Egypt and elsewhere--instead I'll use that as an example of the type of topic you might consider for your final projects. By the end of next session I'll be asking you to commit to a final project topic, so now's a good time to talk about the guidelines.

Final project guidelines
  • Identify a question rising out of the readings or your own experience that you'd like to explore in more depth. You may work alone or in pairs. Send me an email with your proposed question, and how you plan to address it, no later than Monday, March 7. Please do so even if we've exchanged email about your final project ideas already, since hopefully they'll change at least somewhat as a result of this session.
  • Address your question both analytically (include literature both within and beyond the course readings) and empirically (data gathered via your experience on one or more relevant social sites). Use data gathering models from the readings to structure your investigation, and conclude with a reflective discussion section where you evaluate your results in light of your original question. Planning, flexibility and persistence will also be key components of your grade.
  • Length should be roughly 15 double-spaced pages for a solo project, not counting screenshots (required) and bibliography. However, you are free to propose a different final project or format. If this option interests you, contact me as far in advance of the proposal deadline as possible.
  • Final projects will be due as a .doc/.docx or .pdf email attachment to me by Sunday, May 1

Session 4

In Session 3 you discovered some of the ways that different communities react and respond to different types of content. Now the focus will shift to the roles of users in those communities.

By Sunday, February 27, 11:59pm
  • After completing the readings, find, join and compare two online communities that implement different social capital/trust mechanisms. Try to make the communities somewhat comparable in terms of size and topic scope. Since part of the fun of reading other folks' blogs is discovering new sites, choose communities you have not visited or blogged about before.
  • Compare the two mechanisms, and include one anecdote and screenshot of an illustrative personal experience you had with each where social capital or trust came into play. This might include your experience as a new member of the community without any social capital, your interactions or observations with experienced members, or something entirely different.
  • Suggest improvements to each site's role/capital/trust mechanism, based on the community, four of the six Session 4 readings and your own experience with other sites. Note that the JCMC readings have migrated to the Wiley online library available through Hamilton at this link
Important: Conclude your post with one or more ideas for a final project, which need not be connected to this session's topics. Phrase it as a question you're interested in exploring, and include some specific ideas on how and where you might address the question. Your goal here is to invite discussion and suggestions.

By Friday, March 4, 11:59pm

Comment on at least five other students' blog posts, and include a reaction to their final project idea(s). You can contribute questions you think they should consider, outside resources you think may be of help, problems/pitfalls you think might arise, or any other contribution that helps them focus and finalize their project proposal.

By Sunday, March 6, 11:59pm

Conclude your discussions, and remember to email me your final project proposal the following day.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Session 3--Motivation for participation

First, my compliments on an excellent set of posts and comments for Session 2. An asynchronous course like this is only as engaging as you make it, and the effort you've put into your posts and responses benefits everyone. Changing the deadline for your five comments to Friday of the second week of the session seemed to work well, so we'll stay with that for the time being.

For Session 3 we'll be doing something a little different. You've already had some experience with the challenges of getting replies and feedback in online communities, and found that one of the keys seems to be matching the content of your post to the rules, traditions or mood of your community. This can also include a community's unwritten rules, such as certain controversial topics, and how newbies need to approach longtime members with respect in order to get any response. Understanding how and why people participate in social sites will be extremely valuable, whether you are a designer, provider or user of social computing systems.

By Sunday, Feb 13, 11:59pm

1) Complete the Session 3 readings. Briefly summarize and evaluate their diverse senses of online participation and motivation, then provide two examples from your own online experience: one that supports a claim in one of the readings, and another that challenges or extends a claim in another. An example of the latter might be some reason you participate in an online community that you did not find covered or adequately explained.

2) Observe (don't participate this time) an online community that's new to you, and gather data from at least 50 posts in the community to answer the following questions:

--What modes of participation are there? For example, you may be able to post content of your own, comment on others' posts, rate posts, flag posts, friend people, send private messages etc. Provide a short but complete list of participation modes for the community you choose.
--How is participation encouraged? Include types of encouragement from both the designers of the site and its participants, with a brief example of each. You may need to go beyond your 50+ post sample to create a complete list, but if you observe more than five types, just present the five you observed most often.
--Which types of content draw the most responses? Create a list of the five most common forms of content you observed in your sample. For example, in a car community, you might have a list like the following: Questions about which car to buy, how to modify or customize it, evaluation of accessories, mechanical reliability and purely social chatting. You should have a raw count of the number of times each type of content is posted, and (importantly) add up the number of responses each post receives, in any mode you can detect, to arrive at a total response count for each content type. Make sure each of the 50+ posts in your sample were posted at roughly the same time, so that each has had equal time to accumulate responses.

Discuss and evaluate your findings, incorporating concepts from two of the three readings you did not address in 1), and focus specifically on anything you found surprising or unexpected. Your goal in this section is to evaluate whether your observations support, challenge or extend concepts from the readings, which may be different than the conclusions you drew from your own experience.

By Friday, Feb 18, 11:59pm

Comment substantively on at least five other students' posts. Try to choose students with whom you haven't already engaged in conversation.

By Sunday, Feb 20, 11:59pm

Conclude your responses and discussions. Continue to gather ideas for your final projects--feel free to contact me to discuss possible topics, as some of you already have, but next session's blog will have more concrete guidelines on that.