Virtual Communities

Parks, M. (2010). Virtual Communities. Received from

Goal to define “virtual communities” more. To what extent do people with profiles utilize the affordances of membership, expression, and connection?

“Virtual Communities”: social groups that display the psychological and cultural qualities of strong community without physical proximity (Willson, 2006).

Sharing geographic space and self sufficiency – necessary for “strong communities” are not needed for virtual communities.

Common themes between virtual and real communities:
1. Collective action (Jones, 1995)
2. The group thinks of itself as a community (Bell & Newby, 1947)
3. Members identify with teh community (Willson, 2006)
4. Share information (Carey, 1989; Jones, 1995)
5. Larger patterns of interacting grow out of regular information exchange (Bell & Neby, 1974)
6. Member exhibit attachments to one another and the community more generally (Kantor, 1972; Willson, 2006)

Social Affordances: possibilities for action that are called forth by a social technology or environment. 3 types are required for the formation of virtual communities on SNS:
* Membership: Ease and durability of membership
* Expression: Customizing your page, adding picture, to express yourself
* Connection: Tools to make a connection like messages, groups, friending

Membership activity
Login time
Public or Private profile

Customized page
Profile picture

Number of friends
Number of comments
Number of days since last comment

Membership activity
Equal login time, except people in a relationship moreso than singles
More females set profile to private than men

More than 2/3 did NOT customize their page
Younger and people in a relationship were more likely to customize pages
People in relationships were more likely to have a profile picture

No significant difference in any demographic

Majority of users do not utilize the social affordances necessary to the formation of virtual communities. Qualities of a community are experienced by a small portion of users. More engaged users that did have virtual communities were based of pre-existing ones. Virtual communities are simply the online extension of geographically situated offline communities

Crowds and Communities: Light and Heavyweight Models of Peer Production

Haythornthwaite, C. (2009). Crowds and communities: Light and heavyweight models of peer production. Proceedings of the Hawaii International Conference On System Sciences. Received from

Argues dimensions of task interdependence, authority control, and group focus underpin behaviors. Results in “lightweight” behaviors (weak-tie) and “heavyweight” behaviors (strong-tie)

Understand operation of internet based collaboration enterprises
Answer questions:
* What is the optimal structure for contributory practices?
* How should social and technical systems be designed to promote contribution and participation?

Commons-based peer production (Benkler)

Crowdsourcing: gaining inputs from many, unknown and unconnected contributors

LWPP (Lightweight peer production): large set of contributors each of whom provides minimal addition to the product whole. Contributors have little commitment. Allows for many people participating. Appeal to procedure and rules. Straightforward contribution, easy to learn rules. Overall: Individual, discrete, pooled contributions, recognized on lightweight quantitative assessment of contributions.

HWPP (Heavyweight peer production): commitment and attention and action from contributors. Wants to sustain the direction and viability of the community. Equal attention to product and operation. Long term activity. Participants turn to other participants and contributions to determine their own contributions. Require greater learning. Overall: Long-term commitment to common cause and community functions with contributions differentially valued through member assessments

Distinguishing types
Primary: Contribution Type, Granularity, Authentication
Secondary: Individual to group focus
Third: Recognition, reputation, and reward.


Provides input for design of systems that follow the models.

The Rise of Crowdsourcing

Howe, J. (2006). The rise of crowdsourcing. Wired Magazine, 14(6). Received from

Crowdsourcing is the act of outsourcing tasks, traditionally performed by an employee or contractor, to an undefined, large group of people or community (a crowd), through an open call.

Outsourcing is hiring someone to perform a task until it is finished. Crowdsourcing is bringing outside people and involving them in a collaborative process to complete a task.

1. The Professional
Claudia Menashe discovers iStockphoto for stock images she needed for an avian flu kiosk. Mark Harmal, a freelance photographer, no longer offers a scarce product, and had to do more work to earn less than he usually does because of iStockphoto. Getty Images then bought iStockphoto, marketing bulk purchases to companies. Crowdsourcing has altered the future for stock photography.

Technological advances in everything from product design software to digital video cameras are breaking down the cost barriers that once separated amateurs from professionals.

2. The Packager
VH1 Web Junk 20 crator, Michael Hirschorn, needed licensing for viral videos, which was becoming harder to do. VHI’s partner company, Viacom, purchased iFilm, which sorted licensed viral videos by popularity, for cheap!

Hirschorn predicts more user-generated pieces in TV2.0 because of the successful ratings. There’s a lot of participation, but not always great content in what the crowd sends. Hischorn predicts that users will provide better content as user-generated TV matures.

3. The Tinkerer
The “strength of weak ties” (Granovetter) powers InnoCentive, a network aimed to solve scientific problems for companies/seekers. Successful because of the broad range of information, knowledge, and experience.

Ed Melcarek earns a living tackling challenges posted on the site. Companies currently spend a lot on Research & Development, but with InnoCentive, they can get answers that they might have spent a longer time researching themselves. Other sites: YourEncore and NineSigma.

4. The Masses
Amazon’s Mechanical Turk helps companies find people to perform tasks that computers are lousy at. Case study: iConclude needed tech support and Turkers did it for cheap.

I thought this article was a great example of crowdsourcing, and had never really considered the how the rising trend in such websites like Flickr would affect other professions negatively. Companies and sites that utilize the power of crowdsourcing prove to be innovative and a smart move as technology develops further and more resources are becoming available on the web.

This trend remind me of our previous class discussion on Web 2.0, recognizing the power of public collaboration and communication, not to mention the rise of cloud computing and other computer-mediated communications. Users are putting more of their own resources and information on the web, which seems to facilitate not only communication but is starting to reshape current industries today. I wonder to what extent will professions no longer be necessary, as numerous cheaper alternatives appear online.

The Wisdom of Crowds

Surowiecki, J. (2005). The Wisdom of Crowds. New York: Anchor Books.

“Wisdom of Crowds”: Collective intelligence. Under the right circumstances, groups are remarkably intelligent, and are often smarter than the smartest people in them.

Boundedly Rational: Due to less information and limited foresight, we lack the desire to make sophisticated cost-benefit calculations and settle with a decision that seems good enough, rather than the best possible. (Herbert Simon)

Chasing the expert is a mistake, and a costly one at that. We should stop hunting and ask the crowd instead. But many don’t agree with collective intelligence and instead believe in only a select few to be smart enough.

3 Problems
* Cognition Problems: problems that have definitive solutions
* Coordination Problems: problems that require members of a group to figure out how to coordinate their behavior with each other, knowing that everyone is trying to do the same.
* Cooperation Problems: problems involving the challenge of getting self-interested, distrustful peopl to work together.

Conditions for the crowd to be wise:
* Diversity of opinion: each person should have some private information, even if it’s just an eccentric interpretation of the known facts
* Independence: people’s opinions are not determined by the opinions of those around them
* Decentralization: people are able to specialize and draw on local knowledge
* Aggregation: some mechanism exists for turning private judgmetns into a colelctive decison
The best collective decisions are product of disagreement and contest.

Case Studies
* Submarine “Scorpion” lost and found through average of collective guesses
* Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? crowd 91% of the time correct
* Students average guesses 94% correct
* Agents in maze averaged the same as the smartest individual’s steps
* Challenger disaster caused by company Morton Thiokol, as predicted by stock market (Mulherin)
* Gambling and betting on horses, NFL, etc. predicting outcome of game
* Google searches and displays by importance
* IEM poll for presidential elections; the percentage X is going to win = money you receive
* Hollywood Stock Exchange (HSX)

Decision Market
: Method for capturing collective wisdom

My initial thought to this study was surprise that crowds could practically predict the outcome of certain situations. It’s somewhat hard to imagine that several hunches put together and averaged could come up with a close estimation of, for example, the weight of an ox. However, at the same time, it seemed to me that a lot of theoreticians had so little faith in the capability of the common man, claiming that there are only a very few number of people that are adept at any one thing. Regardless, the case studies presented were good examples of the wisdom of crowds, but while the crowd may be intelligent as a collection, I wouldn’t leave it up to the public to decide everything.

When connecting the wisdom of crowds to social media, I would imagine that utilizing social media to find a consensus of what the population is saying about different subjects, trends, etc. would be a possible way to predict certain future trends. The act of using Radian 6 to collect data suddenly seems more valid now…

Pattern Languages in Interaction Design: Structure and Organization

van Welie, M., & van der Veer, G. (2003). Pattern languages in interaction design: structure and organization. Interact 2003. Retrieved from

With the introduction of patterns in interaction design, investigators of such patterns have begun to focus on the issue organizing them into pattern languages. The article, “Pattern Languages in Interaction Design: Structure and Organization” (Van Welie & Van der Veer, 2003), focuses on a top-down approach of structuring patterns, where high-level problems are broken up into smaller ones that have visible solutions. It also delves into the basic idea of pattern languages, it’s creation, and practical uses in relation to web design.

The importance of organizing patterns within interaction design is related to recognizing specific design problems. For example, if a client wants an e-commerce website created, a designer would identify the functional patterns necessary to fulfill the problem by breaking down the task into smaller problems, or low-level problems. Possible low-level patterns in this case may include registering, shopping cart, or product comparison. By clustering different patterns into larger categories such as “E-commerce”, “Navigation”, or “Searching”, a pattern language is created, allowing designer to identify such solutions more easily. In addition, tools that can help with the creation of pattern languages will allow designers to accomplish the task more quickly, increasing a designer’s productivity without sacrificing efficiency. The relevance to my own studies comes from a designing aspect. Time is money, therefore, decreasing the amount of time to accomplish a task is significant and possible through this technique of pattern languages.

This article is an analysis of previously proposed techniques on pattern languages. It uses past information on patterns and suggests that not only the creation of pattern languages is important, but that the creation of tools to assist with it is the next step. Personally, I thought the article was well structured and did well in using examples to explain their reasoning. The article also covered different issues, such as mentioning that every type of designer would have a different way of defining a certain language. For example, a software engineer and a visual designer may organize different patterns into a pattern language, yet still call the pattern language by a similar name. This would be an important aspect to consider when creating a tool to aid in pattern language creation. Overall, the authors did well in analyzing past research and coming up with their own idea to add to the greater body of knowledge in interactive design patterns.

Due to the possibility of pattern language becoming one of the “most effective design knowledge management tools available” (Van Welie & Van der Veer, 2003), I believe this to be a relatively important article to consider, however, it is likely not the only one. Pattern language tools might have gone further in development in recent years, and finding more timely research might be more beneficial. Regardless, the structure and explanations in this article was well done and may be helpful for a basic understanding of patterns and possible ways of categorizing them.

A “Social Model” of Design: Issues of Practice and Research

Margolin, V., & Margolin, S. (2002). A “social model” of design: Issues of practice and research. Design Issues, 18(4). Retrieved from

When it comes to design, many think of the artistic practice that produces aesthetic pieces, whether it is a painting, an automobile, or a brochure. However, many fail to realize the reasoning behind design decisions and the fact that design can be used to contribute to human welfare. “A ‘Social Model’ of Design: Issues of Practice and Research” (Margolin & Margolin, 2002), stresses the intent of design as a satisfaction of human needs and claims that the needs of many populations are not being met. Therefore, the article aims to describe a new “social model” of design practice, and suggest more research to be done in the area of product design for social need.

The social model that is presented in this article is based on that of social service intervention. When a team of social workers is constructed to intervene, the group works collaboratively to figure out the problem and implement solutions as needed, however the knowledge of a product designer on physical and special domain is a useful aspect that often isn’t accounted for. One significant example would be the deficiencies in the home environment of an elderly person. If a product designer had been on the intervention team of such a project, the team would have easily been able to create products that could serve the elderly inhabitants better. The fact that many professional areas are not taking into account the solutions offered by designers is a concerning matter. This suggests that there needs to be more awareness of the necessity of design in the world, and that when branding oneself as a designer, the communication of that issue needs to be made apparent.

As an article published in an academic journal for design history, theory, and criticism, I’m not surprised by the quality of attention given to the unmet need for designers in professions. It is very well written and thought provoking, taking into account the world as it is now, the social model of design presented, the agenda for implementing it, and the education that would be necessary to do so. There is no empirical data given, which is understandable since most of the article is about pitching the need for a new social model and how to go about it. Any research that was done seems to be purely observational, yet seem to be sound arguments to the point that was made.

Since the issue discussed in this article is based on contributing to human welfare, I found it to be an inspiring read. Many problems could be solved with a designer’s point of view included in the mix, yet often that isn’t the case, which leaves certain important aspects to go unnoticed. Overall, the article makes a good argument for the fundamental need of this social model, and does well in illustrating that.

Social Media Presentations from Jan.25

I apologize for this delayed post. I had taken notes of the presentations from TECH621 on January 25th and saved it as a draft, leading me to forget to publish it until now.

Listed are facts I found to be interesting and thought provoking about the presentations from class:

*Increase in Africa is most prominent but still far below user base in USA. Asia has most users with 42% yet English is prominent language.
*Internet is American creation. Predicted that Chinese will pass English lang in 3-5years.
*US only 54% of internet users use FB.
*Asia is blogging leader (South Korea with 92%)

*55% to 85% internet usage in the US in 10 years
*Awareness of Twitter and Facebook almost equal (87%) yet usage of Facebook is much larger
*Younger population is more likely to maintain a MySpace account than others like Facebook.
*More adults blog than teens. Perhaps because teens use SNS these days while adults may still blog professionally. Teens might be moving to micro blogging or faster methods.

*Brazil has highest Web2.0 app adoption
*Has to do with the penetration in technology within that country.
*High tech and telecom industries use web 2.0 the most.
*Using web 2.0 to market and compliment other forms of interaction

*Computer time of 8-18 year olds spent 25% social networking and 19% gaming
*Teens prefer texting over talking

*Tribes – developed because there is a challenge to the status quo.
*First email was sent in 1971.
*We dont use social networks because of what they are, but WHO is using them and WHAT we can get out of them.
*Will Quicky overtake FB?

*97% people do not check apps for viruses
*54% companies online have FB fan pages
*89% of pornography pages online originte in the US.
*58% child pornography from US

RA2: Design of a Multi-Media Vehicle for Social Browsing

Root, R.W. (1988). Design of a multi-media vehicle for social browsing. Bell Communication Research. Retrieved from

The research paper began with introducing the need for interpersonal communications and informal social relationships: Workers are reported to significantly decrease in satisfaction when they are removed from their coworkers, and therefore, a need to overcome the effects of physical separation was seen as necessary.

The purpose of this article was to present a new approach in using computer-mediated communication technology to essentially create a virtual environment that promotes social interaction in separate workplaces. The concept of the design was to provide easy, convenient access to other people through multi-media communication tools.

To accomplish this task, CRUISER was created as a model for an interface to this virtual social environment. The following were assumed to be available:

1) Desktop full-motion video communications
2) High-quality full-duplex audio
3) A switched multimedia network under local computer control
4) Integration of video images and computer-generated graphics.

Using CRUISER, a virtual world would be visible within the user interface, displaying a 2D floorplan that represents a virtual hallway. From their desktop, users can “walk” down this hallway and pass by offices. Users then have the option of stopping at a location to communicate with an occupant of said office or meeting area.

Once connected to an office, the user’s interface would be shown the interior of the occupant’s office (and vice versa), using the integrated video camera within the room, and the two users would be able to communicate with each other with the full-duplex audio. Due to the existence of the virtual world, spacial proximity is eliminated, connecting users that could possibly be worlds apart into a single accessible space.

CRUISER was a prototype under construction at the time this article was written, and much of the research went into finding the need to overcome the effects of physical separation in the workplace and validating why the product was necessary.

At that time, the most important trial implementation of a virtual-world system, however, was that conducted by Xerox Corporation between two laboratory sites in Palo Alto, CA, and Portland, OR. Preliminary data from the usage of connectivity indicated that 70% of interactions were described to be “drop-in,” where users would “pass” by an office and stop by to talk momentarily. Also, roughly 1/3 of all interactions were social in nature, the rest being technical.

The experiment of the virtual-world system was eventually terminated but demonstrates the potential for reducing the social effects of distance through multimedia communication technology.

Before reading the article, I had thought that I would be learning about the way in which a multimedia tool for social browsing on the web was being designed, not the features given to a virtual workplace to promote social interactions. Even the abstract discussed the use of a “social interface” and multimedia used at a desktop workstation, which led me to believe it was related to social media usage at someone’s desk at work. I think that this is an interesting topic, although not a point of view I have ever thought about examining. At the point in time when this was done, I believe that they were very much limited by the technology that was present at that time, but would be intrigued to hear how this research evolved and what has been accomplished. Is “social browsing” important to users in this sense today? And is this most effective within the workplace or would should it be applied elsewhere?

The biggest thing I probably took from this article was the concept of “spatial proximity” and that users are more satisfied with social interactions in a workplace than without. I might look more into the application of social media on the web to overcome spatial proximity or the feeling of being isolated. How effectively does social media or social network sites bridge this gap?

Mixable, Purdue’s New Social Networking Site For Academics

Two weeks ago, I learned about Purdue’s new social network for academic organization called Mixable (, and even met the creator and project manager, Kyle Bowen. Mr. Bowen informed me that Mixable was created to allow students to academically collaborate with each other more easily. With it, Purdue students need simply sign in with their career account and will then have the ability to “connect” with their classes, giving them access to user discussions, files, and resources posted by other students.

Mixable also has the feature to sync your other social network accounts to your Mixable account. Students can sign into Dropbox and gain access to the storage that it has to offer, to upload files and share them with others. With Facebook and Twitter accounts synced, students will not only be able to share items posted on Mixable onto their profile, but also be able to easily find their classmates on Facebook/Twitter to add as friends if desired.

When talking with Mr. Bowen, I was most interested in his possible goal to replace Purdue’s current course management system, Blackboard. He expressed his distaste for Blackboard because of its many bugs, but what seemed to dissatisfy him most was how difficult it was for teachers and students to learn how to use. Personally, I haven’t experienced many problems with Blackboard, however, my classes rarely require it. I’ve noted the trial-and-error way some teachers seem to learn its capabilities, and I agree with Mr. Bowen – That shouldn’t be happening. Management systems should be intuitive and accomplishing a task should be simple.

Qualms I have with Blackboard also include its boring layout, the unnecessary extensive menu bar/categories, and most of all, its inability to be accessed on my iPhone/iPad. Mr. Bowen understands that students are becoming more mobile, and I’m hoping he exploits that trend to his fullest. If another service like Mixable is available, I imagine Blackboard will fall behind because of its lack of mobility. But then again, it’s all up to what teachers and students ultimately decide on using. If the Purdue public assumes Blackboard is the standard, perhaps it will stick around for longer than necessary.

As with any social network site, however, Mixable will only be as great as the number of faculty and students using it. With only a little more than 1200 members, I was a little worried whether or not it would catch on, but Mr. Bowen told me that Mixable has yet to be marketed. He and his team wanted to make sure that their product worked and could handle public use before marketing it. A wise choice? Or with this lack of early publicity hurt its growth?

Regardless, I’m looking forward to the day Mixable will be a common resource for Purdue students, if it achieves that point. Learn more about Purdue Mixable at

RA1: Neomillennial User Experience Design Strategies

Baird, D.E., & Mercedes, F. (2005). Neomillennial user experience design strategies: Utilizing social networking media to support “always on” learning styles. Journal of educational technology systems, 34(1), 5, Retrieved from

Because today’s generation is very much “net-centric”, this paper focuses on investigating a teaching curriculum designed around the digital world and the integration of social networking, user experience design strategies and other technologies. It also explores how new social media can support these learning styles and aid in the creation of future learning communities. The authors’ overachieving goal is to help instructors and course directors find ways to use the digital world to their advantage to enhance the learning experience for students.

The researchers looked at current learning theories as well as theories that attempt to integrate technology within them. First, they examined current course designs and certain cognitive events that occur during learning. Then they refined their understanding of instructional styles before discussing other technology alternatives to delivering information to achieve the same results. How users navigate and learn through the web is observed, specifically touching on certain technologies such as RSS feeds and weblogs.

Main Findings
Because this article focused on examining previous knowledge on learning styles, many of the main findings were examples of current theories and the types of possible technologies to use. They found that certain events that occur during learning can be applied to the web. For example, to gain attention of the student, you present that data; so on the web, you would present the information on the screen. They discover how users read the web; for example, hypertext links prove to serve as one form of highlighting. Students’ perceptions of blogging and the psychology behind language and design use on the web were also found due to their research. From these findings, they suggest possible technologies.

This subject was well researched, but in that sense, it was very much research-focused. A lot of background information was given on current learning theories, and while it transitioned well into how these theories can be integrated with social media, this claim was backed by second hand knowledge. When presenting possible technologies, much of the section was spent explaining and defining the technology, with few lines claiming how it could be used within an academic setting.

Regardless, I think that the compilation of information was very well done and reviewed. While I might not be interested in learning how technologies could be applied in this sense, the theories discussed presented great knowledge to my interest in design. Specifically, the psychology of navigation and how users read the web. These standards were what I was hoping to find in an article and is what I took away most from it.

In conclusion, great review of previous research and a decent starting point for instructors and course directors to follow in terms of integrating social media within a curriculum. I would, however, be interested in research done to see how each of these suggested options actually effect learning.