Sunday, March 27, 2011

Session 6--Online identity and interaction

I hope you all had an enjoyable spring break, and that you're ready for the final sprint to the semester's finish line...

As much as possible in Sessions 6 and 7, I'd like you to direct the assignments toward your final projects. This session's readings are about how people create and express their online identities within the context of particular communities. You're reading these papers now because you'll need to understand how some researchers have crafted their studies of online communities, and apply some of those lessons--both what they've done, and what they should have done but didn't--to your final projects.

Since I want to give you as much flexibility as possible to target your reading to areas most relevant to your final projects, I'm making some of the readings for this session optional:

Everyone should read: Wellman, Donath, Hodkinson, Ploderer and Liu.

Optional readings: Whittaker, if you're interested in Usenet and a historical look at online identity research. Huberman and Honeycutt, if you're interested in Twitter

If you read one or more of the optional readings, feel free not to read Ploderer or Liu. If you choose to read them all, perhaps I might interest you in applying to the CIS PhD program? ;)

By Sunday, April 3, 11:59pm

To complete this assignment you will need to have a strong sense of why people join and participate in particular online communities, and how their identities are shaped and expressed within them. The readings for this session can give you an example of the level of detail you need to address these questions.
  1. Propose a working definition of online identity for a site you are studying, and compare it to one or more of those found in the readings. Then contrast your definition with Wellman et al.'s sense of networked individualism.
  2. Write three informal use scenarios (outlines of common interactions) based on your observations of existing users. In each scenario, describe how an individual with a predictable need enters your community, navigates through common decision points and options step by step, then (ideally) exits with what he or she came for. Include functional interactions (decision points relevant to the user's goal; you need not exhaustively list all options) and interpersonal interactions. Don't worry about formal scenario structure, just communicate the information in a paragraph or bulleted list. Write two "sunny day" use scenarios (common interactions where all goes as expected), and one "rainy day" scenario (an uncommon but plausible interaction where it doesn't).
  3. Address this question: how is online identity shaped and expressed through interactions in this community? Your answer should be based on specific examples you observed and represented in your scenarios, and compared with examples from at least two readings. Include at least one screenshot.
People working in pairs on the final project may collaborate on this assignment and focus on the same community, but you must submit different definitions and scenarios on your individual blogs. And if you can't see a link between this assignment and your final project, or if you have any other questions, email me or post a comment to this entry.

By Friday, April 8, 11:59pm

You know how we do it--comment on at least five other students' posts, and remember to make your comments as specific and actionable as possible.

By Sunday, April 10, 11:59pm

Conclude your conversations. The Session 7 (final!) blog will be posted on or about Monday April 11.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Session 5--Social knowledge production and services

A quick technical note: for some reason, HansomeAvatar's blog wasn't triggering updates in most people's feed readers (including mine), so please double-check your links:

We're past the midpoint of the semester, and the quality of your blogs has been consistently excellent--for many of you I don't think the word excellent sufficiently captures the level of effort and insight you're devoting to your posts. Your interactions via comments have reminded me of some of the more tightly structured online communities we've posted about, and I hope you agree that the conversations within the comments have been a useful component of the course. Most of your final project proposals are understandably broad right now, and as you dive into the work, those blog comments are going to be one way to help you get some early reactions and focus on the most interesting and/or doable aspects of your topics. So when you post comments, keep them actionable; that is, linked with a specific aspect of the post and/or giving a specific suggestion.

Some of your final projects are concerned with applying successful aspects of social computing sites to more traditional information domains, and for you folks, this session's readings and assignment might be particularly well-timed. This dovetails with the last line of the course description:

" them with traditional professional equivalents, and evaluate how these diverse perspectives can inform one another."

By Sunday, March 13, 11:59pm:

Most of the readings for this session focus on social computing tools that do some of the same work as existing systems and services:
  • Online peer production (e.g. open source software development) vs. in-person collaboration
  • Social tagging vs. professional cataloging and classification
  • Social recommender systems vs. real-world advice seeking
  • Social Q&A sites vs. libraries or schools
Choose one of the above comparisons (or propose another), and discuss some of the ways in which the forms of information exchange you chose can inform each other. Use specific examples from the session's readings and screenshots from a relevant site when necessary to ground your points. And make sure you address both sides: for example, if you propose that a strength of Social Q&A can help address a weakness in traditional education, then also discuss how a strength of traditional education can improve a weakness of Social Q&A. Why do you think the two perspectives can benefit one other, and what would some tradeoffs be?

Some cautions: strive to make your analysis both actionable and non-obvious. If you find yourself thinking that the two environments you've chosen are too different to be usefully compared, then choose others. Your goal is to identify examples of how social and traditional knowledge production and services can plausibly inform one another.

By Friday, March 18, 11:59pm

Comment on at least 5 other students' posts. If there are people you haven't interacted with before, strive to even out your comments.

By Sunday, March 20, 11:59pm

Conclude your conversations--then get out there and enjoy Spring Break!

The Session 6 blog will go up on or about Monday March 28.