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