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.

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