Session 7 Rules in the cyberspace

I am studying the Wikipedia community. This website has clear rules elaborating what the site is about, how to make the best use of it, how to contribute to Wikipedia, and how to give feedback and questions. The link is as follows: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:About. In brief, Wikipedia welcomes everyone’s contribution. Even if the contributor is not an expert of a topic, she/he still can express her/his own opinions without being afraid of making a mistake. Contributors are instructed to express neutral viewpoints and respect their fellow Wikipedians’ viewpoints. If there is a need for negotiation, Wikipedia provides the talk page and asks for the following of dispute resolution.

When examining the talk page of the topic: cheesecake, I found three examples of interpersonal conflicts and how users resolve them:

Example 1

User Leopardmon blanked the page due to vandalism. User Seaphoto mentioned there is no need to blank it because the page can be reverted to the latest unvandalized version. User Seaphoto even took a further action to call for page protection for the article.

Example 2

User expressed his/her disagreement with User Seaphoto and thought that Wikipedia violated its’ policy of neutral viewpoints. User Seaphoto did not discuss with User on the policy of neutral viewpoints; instead, User Seaphoto said he/she was reverting the talk page because User did not discuss about the subject but Wikipedia, which is irrelevant to the subject.

Example 3

User League X explained the reason he/she added some information to the Wikipedia page. User Seaphoto pointed out the problem of the way League X added information and suggested the alternative.

The three examples in Wikipedia illustrate the salient benefits of member maintenance:
1.      Peer oversight is proved to be an effective way to improve the quality of the posts (Cosley, 2005)
2.      The policies as guidelines influence the Wikipedian community and sustain it (Madison, 2006).
3.      The indoctrination of newbies by senior community members can increase site participation and social support (Gazan, 2009) since the reduction of low-quality content may more successfully keep valuable members and make contributors believe that their effort and contributions can lead to a better performance, representing part of the community’s performance (Cosley, 2005).
4.      The community’s self-awareness can intimidate potential roguish behaviors. If the number of rogues increases in a community, the overall participation in Wikipedia will very likely to fall (Gazan, 2007).

Example 1 and 3 show the sunny day of the users, who got the answers after interacting with other community users. Example 2 shows that the user wanted to discuss one of Wikipedia’s policies, but it turned out to be non-negotiable. If I were the administrator of Wikipedia, I would open a space for people like to discuss his/her thought about neutrality of viewpoints. I understand that for Wikipedia, it is easy to ask its members to follow the pre-set rules. However, according to Gazan (2009), open debate on normative standards can have positive effects on the community. So far, I do not find any unwritten rules because of the clear rules and well-functioning member maintenance of this website.


Session 6 Online identity

Take Facebook for example, people using the SNS mainly want to get to know new friends, keep in touch with their friends, and being kept in contact with their friends, too. Therefore, the Facebook online identity can be the maintenance of one’s friendship. This working definition goes well with Hudkinson (2006)’s definition that the friend list serves to enhance the communication with one another, which can be the extension from one’s offline friendship or influence the offline friendship from the online friendship. Also, the maintenance of one’s friendship in Facebook speaks to the importance of what a friend is for—material assistance and support (Donath, 2007). However, my definition of online identity based on Facebook may not obviously explain Liu (2007)’s viewpoint that one’s friend connection reveals his identity because some Facebook users tend to include as many and diverse friends as possible in their friend list; thus, it is hard to contour one’s identity by only looking at his friend connection. If looking into this SNS in terms of Wellman’s networked individualism (2003), I think Facebook has several characteristics:
1.      The categorization of one’s friends in the friend list makes him manage his friendships much easier than the use of the paper rolodex.
2.      The ubiquitous Internet connectivity reinforces the possibility to maintain one’s friendship without the limitation of time and space.
3.      The mode of forming a community shifts from many people gathering to form a community to a person developing his own, unique community by incorporating other people into that community.

Scenario 1
A 25-year old man wanted to make breakfast for his girlfriend. The man went to a cooking website, typing the key word “chicken Caesar wrap”, and getting a whole bunch of recipes and some people’s comments. He clicked the first link because it was put at the top of the long recipe list. He quickly looked at the content. The recipe describes the ingredients in detail and how to make it. He thought it provided enough information, so decided to continue reading it. There were other online users’ ratings and reviews. He quickly reviewed what the rating people gave to this recipe and found most people gave four to five stars on a scale of five. He randomly chose one five-rating comment and one four-rating comment to read. These reviewers provided their opinions after following the recipe and their suggestions. Therefore, the man was happy with the online search.  
Scenario 2
A 20-something girl was looking for a way to make her eyes look bigger. So, she logged onto a beauty website and keyed in “eyes, bigger” and found there were thousands of ways, such as doing surgery, using mascara, using an eyeliner, etc. She decided not to have surgery, so she wanted to make a decision between using mascara and an eyeliner. She quickly reviewed other people’s comments and found that comments were more on mascara than on eyeliners, so she decided to look into how to use mascara. When reading the comments, she found people referred to a couple of the brands of mascara. Among the brands, one brand was mentioned more often than others. Therefore, she searched online other people’s comments on this specific brand. After reading more reviews on the specific brand, she decided to buy one and follow the ways of using this mascara as suggested on the beauty website.
Scenario 3
A 40-year old single woman joined an online blind date website. She decided to read the personal profiles under the category of swimming because she likes swimming. She continued reading those guys’ profiles, which consist of photos, occupations, interests, hobbies, self-introduction, and the type of females they’re interested in. She found that not all profiles include all the information wanted. For example, some people did not have photos, so she didn’t have a clue that what the guys look like. Because the information provided by each profile was not enough for her, she had a hard time deciding with whom she wanted to make a friend. Thus, she logged out the website without any gains.

Online identity is shaped according to how you want yourself to be presented. No matter in facebook or the hypothetical blind date website, individuals have the freedom to shape their personal image and present it to other people. The way to present one’s personal image is through cultural interests, such as preferences. As Liu (2007) described, one’s social network profile is like an everyday performance. People can change their profiles at anytime, so in this sense online identity is always being reshaped. However, according to Donath (2007), the self-description of online profiles may or may not be reliable. Take the online blind date for example, if a person says he is 170 centimeter tall, it is hard to tell whether it is true or not even if the person posts his photo on the profile. 

This photo shows the individual changeed her photo 9 hours ago. People decide what kind of self-image to show at will. 


Session5:Online peer production vs. in-person collaboration

Haythornthwaite (2009) and Duguid (2006) discuss the modes and quality of online peer production and the reward systems. These concepts about online peer production help me reflect on the difference between online class discussion and face-to-face class discussion.

The shift from contribution to retrieval
Peer production through computers can be easily stored and retrieved. Haythornthwaite (2009) indicates the value of information resources has shifted from contribution to retrieval. In educational perspectives, the strength of text mediation lies in the opportunities for learners to think, reflect, and revise their ideas (Lotman, 1988; Wertsh & Biven, 1992). For teachers who emphasize the importance of process rather than product, the retrieval of the process of learning can be easily achieved by means of the computer. In a face-to-face class, many bright ideas appear transiently and then disappear. Those ideas could be the precious resources to facilitate learning if learners had access to them every time when they needed.

Engagement, the experience of being active, is important for peer production. In online peer production, either lightweight peer production (LWPP) or heavyweight peer production (HWPP), contributors should get involved in the tasks in order to assist a project to be completed. Take Wikipedia for instance, users, based on their own interests, are allowed to contribute to a new or given topic. They are also allowed to remove old comments by providing reasons and expand a topic by providing verifiable evidence. The sense of constantly interacting with others to refine the knowledge in order to approach accuracy is one of the spirits of this open source website. The constant interaction may increase one’s social presence, giving the individual a feeling of being there with others (Haythornthwaite, 2009). The screenshot below shows the three out of five fundamental principles of Wikipedia. 
Wikipedia allows disagreement and take care of avoiding unnecessary flaming. The tolerance of disagreement may be absent in face-to-face class, where students may be embarrassed to challenge their peers’ ideas in person. However, some people prefer talking face-to-face because they can easily tell their interlocutors’ attitudes toward an issue by recognizing their facial expressions. In an online environment where these cues are missing, I would say the use of emoticons may more or less compensate for the absence of paralanguage.

In addition, Wikipedia encourages conversation to resolve disputes. It is believed to increase its users’ participation since Duguid (2006) said allowing anyone to make changes to the text without discussion is unlikely to attract people willing to work hard on an entry. The following screenshot shows one part of the talk page of Taiwan independence. The contributor Jiang expressed her thought of the topic and the reason she deleted some content.
In a face-to-face class, class discussion usually focuses on consensus. For example, in a face-to-face reading class, after the group members read an article, they have to discuss with their group members the discussion questions. One of it is “what will you do if you were a patient in the situation?” There are various possible answers. However, based on my course observation most of the time one group member first expressed his opinion and then other group members would agree with him. That’s all. The group conversation ended. Sometimes some other group members would continue the conversation within the frame of the first speaker’s idea. In other words, the group conversation quickly reached consensus, but meanwhile lost heteroglossia. The heteroglossia in group conversation functions as meaning negotiation, which is important in Vygotsky’s zone of proximal development. 

The quality of peer production
Duguid (2006) points out a problem of online peer production; that is, the quality of latest post does not guarantee better quality than its predecessors. It is because people work independently may concern little about the consistency of their contribution to the project as a whole. One of the examples is how different Wikipedian contributors summarized how Defoe became famous. The meaning of the posts somehow changes how Defoe became famous from the original post. I think the problem occurs mostly due to the nonobligation to go through the whole posts, so contributors misinterpret the meaning of the previous posts and affect the latter contributors who also do not go through the whole posts. The situation is less likely to happen in in-person peer production because most of the time we cannot actively ignore what our interlocutors are saying or choose only a certain part that we want to listen to. With regard to it, we are less likely to misinterpret our interlocutors’ words, caused by not paying attention to the whole context. Therefore, one of the ways to stop piling errors on top of errors is to ask individuals to read the original post before reading the subsequent posts or before posting their own comments. In this way, each contributor can put his / her comments into context. 


Session 4 Social capital and trust mechanisms

The experience of joining two online communities
Twitter and LibraryThing are the two online communities I join this week. I’m thinking of planning a trip either in Hawaii during the spring break or to Europe some day, so I need some “experts’ advice”. The reason to join the two online communities is that I learned that Twitter enables users to follow someone or some institutions based on their own interests, so I thought I might easily get the information, and that LibraryThing is an online database that people share the books they have read and want to read, so I thought I might get some references for my travel plan.

However, I had difficulty in finding out the information I need and interacting with the old online community members. Take LibraryThing for example, after I keyed in travel, Hawaii, only 4 out of 43 results had book reviews. The following is one of the examples. 

However, when I clicked the Reviews, there was nothing under it. See the screenshot below.

Another problem is that I did not know what the scale that Average rating and Beautiful use and how the rating is produced. I think the situation I faced is similar to what Paolo (2006) said that a user should be informed how recommendations are generated, so that the user can check whether the system introduces undesired biases.

Since I did not get much information I wanted when searching travel, Hawaii, I turned to keyed in another term travel, Europe. This time I got plenty references books (213 results). I clicked travel guideàItaly (Eyewitness Travel Guides)àReviewsà janepriceestrada (one of the members reviewed the book). After reading other members’ comments on her reviews, I decided to leave my comment by asking the author my question. See the screenshot below.

However, the author has not replied to me yet. So, that’s why I said I had difficulty in finding out the information I need and interacting with the old online community members. The problem also occurred when I was on Twitter. After Keying in travel, I followed TravelChannel and Tour of Europe. I found that the two websites use Twitter to propagate their latest news and activities more than communicate with their followers.

When browsing the websites of TravelChannel and Tour of Europe by hopping from their Twitter, I found that TravelChannel has no channel to interact with its users, and Tour of Europe has Contact us that enables its users to interact with the holder of the website, but not with other users.

How to improve social capital/trust mechanisms?
As for LibraryThing, just like what I mentioned, the users need to know how the rating is produced (i.e. who has the right to rate? Based on what criteria?), the meaning of the different scores that one book has, and the credibility of the rating. When I clicked the Average rating of the book Hawaii, only eight out of 107 members rated the book. In the sense, the 3.81 in the average rating was produced by 7% of the members. The credibility is questionable. To increase the credibility, I think the website can first confirm the members’ identity. As Paolo (2006) mentioned, an eBay user can enter credit card details and in this way, eBay can tie the pseudonym with that credit card so that it can be possible to find the person in the real world. Identity confirmation can reduce the possibility that some people use different pseudonyms to repeatedly rate the same book. In addition to identity confirmation, the website should clearly list the criteria of rating and the proportion of raters and non-raters. The listing of criteria of rating can facilitate members wanting to rate to know how to act properly, and members depending on others’ rating to better interpret the outcomes.

As for Twitter, since it has the function of following others, I think one of the ways to enhance social capital is to follow as many like-minded people’s twitters as possible. As Allen (2009) said forming relations with a friend of a friend requires the disclosure of his/her neighbors. It is easy to achieve because when we follow someone who has the same interest of us, we can also follow people who are followed by the person.

I only followed two website’s twitters, which turns out to be not very interactive. I think one of the solutions is to follow real persons. According to Ellison (2007), there are two types of social capital: bridging and bonding. Bridging means loose connections between individuals who may provide useful information or new perspectives for one another but typically not emotional support. Boding means the relationship between individuals is tightly-knit, emotionally close. As for my experience with following Travelchannel and Tour of Europe, I can get some useful information from them, but no emotional support. If I followed real persons’ twitters, the chances of interaction would be likely increased. No matter in which online community, I think as a new member a shortcut to get to know old members and interact with them is to be the Question Person (Gleave, 2009). Question people are important in an online community because they offer a chance for Answer people to show their expertise as well as get to know them. This is a starting point for a new member to increase his/her social capital.
Gleave, Eric, Howard T. Welser, Thomas M. Lento and Marc A. Smith (2009). A
Conceptual and Operational Definition of ÔSocial RoleÕ in Online Community. Proceedings of the 42nd Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences, Waikoloa, HI, 5-8 January 2009.
Massa, Paolo (2006). A Survey of Trust Use and Modeling in Current Real Systems.
Trust in E-services: Technologies, Practices and Challenges. Idea Group.
Allen, Stuart M., Gualtiero Colombo, Roger M. Whitaker (2009). Forming Social
Networks of Trust to Incentivize Cooperation. Proceedings of the 42nd Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences, Waikoloa, HI, 5-8 January 2009.
Ellison, N.B., C. Steinfield and C. Lampe (2007).  The Benefits of Facebook
"Friends:" Social Capital and College Students’ Use of Online Social Network Sites. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 12(4).

As for my final project, I intend to investigate how to make Laulima more like an online learning community. I would like to address the following issues:
1.      The patterns of participation in Laulima, take an online reading course for example
(1)   The types of students in the online reading course (i.e. Lurkers or veterans)
(2)   The kinds of topics which are more popular than others
2.      The differences of the online reading course and the face-to-face reading class
3.      The difference between Laulima and online learning communities

So far, I only know an online learning community Tapped In, so I would be happy to learn more online learning communities from my classmates. In addition, I’d like to know your comments and suggestions on this topic :)