From Inspiration to Activation: Making Online Collaborative Communities Work

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Information about From Inspiration to Activation: Making Online Collaborative Communities...

Published on January 23, 2009

Author: ademoor



Aldo de Moor, UAH Distinguished Speaker Series Lecture, January 21, 2009

From Inspiration to Activation: Making Online Collaborative Communities Work Aldo de Moor CommunitySense the Netherlands WWW.COMMUNITYSENSE.NL

Yes we can… but how?

The Internet is key

Wicked problems  Society faces many wicked problems (Rittel & Webber, 1973)  These are difficult to solve due to  requirements that are  incomplete  contradictory  changing  hard to recognize  Interlocking problems  solving one often creates many others

Seeing the system for the tools?

Collaborative communities  Communities  Strong, lasting interactions  Bonds between members  Common space  Collaborative communities  Common goals  Effective/efficient communication  Perform/coordinate work  Community governance structures/processes  Sense of community  Common space: Internet + face-to-face

Tool systems  Tool system the system of integrated and customized information and communication tools tailored to the specific information, communication, and coordination requirements of a collaborative community  No standard solutions  Socio-technical systems design  Collaborative communities need to evaluate the functionalities in their unique context of use  Understand the purpose of the technologies in this context  Adopt a process view • Example: co-authoring a call for papers

Co-authoring tool system v1 Version Author 2 Author 2 Version Version Author 1 Author 3 Author 1 Author 3

Co-authoring tool system v2 Version Author 2 Author 2 Conference Version Version Author 1 Author 3 Author 1 Author 3

Co-authoring tool system v3 Version Version Version Author 1 Author 1 Author 1 Agreed lines Conference Author 1 Author 2 Author 3 / Editor Chat (Modified) paragraphs Version-in Progress

Towards socio-technical solutions  Research problem online collaborative communities  Not lack of motivation  Many self and other-oriented motives to get critical mass, e.g. in Wikipedia  Lack of activation  Fragmentation of communicative acts across tool system functionalities  R&D objectives 1. Frame these activation problems 2. Model socio-technical design solutions

Socio-technical system view  Domains Community Context  Purposes  Activities Social  Focused Communication System Purposes  Sustained  Evolving  Discussing Communication  Debating Forms  Questioning  Consoling  … Technical System Communication Support ?

Modeling pragmatic communication processes  Theories  Language/Action Perspective  Language as coordination mechanism, focusing on communicative interactions  Pragmatic Web  Applying appropriate web technologies to help improve the quality and legitimacy of collaborative, goal-oriented discourses in communities (Schoop et al, 2006)  Build a socio-technical infrastructure that supports the negotiation of meaning and the coordination of action (Aakhus, 2007)  Research question  How to model activation in collaborative communities using distributed tool systems?

Collaborative community activation  Collaborative community activation  supporting the initiation, execution, and evaluation of goal-oriented (online) communication processes to increase the effectiveness and efficiency of collaboration  Outline  Digital class case  Conceptual model of online collaborative communities  Collaboration patterns  Applications

Case: a digital class community  Who  19 Information Management students  What  create group report on design of parliamentary research information system  When  8 weeks + evaluation session  How  Face-to-face lectures, parallel digital class  Tool system  Blackboard (Learning Management System)  Set of blogs  GRASS (Group Report Authoring Support System)  Scoring tool

The GRASS authoring tool

Group report authoring workflow Theory interpretation (blogs) Case information collection (blog) Report authoring (GRASS) Wk1 Wk 2 Wk3 Wk4 Wk5 Wk6 Wk7 Wk8

Results  63-page report created in 8 weeks by 18 authors  Most students scored much higher than the minimum required  Survey among students  Digital study class better than face-to-face study class  Overall design of tool system plus workflow adequate  Blog posting/commenting plus GRASS position definition/taking and argument creation functionalities easy to learn  Problems  Blog creation easy, however, following what was happening too difficult  Fragmentation of discussion considered a major problem → ‘blog monitor’ helped to reduce sense of fragmentation and to increase participation

Activation lessons learnt  Incentives for individual students to participate  Minimum score required to qualify for exam  Overview of current scores per student visible to all  Vouchers  Improving the overview of activities within individual tools  Indented instead of linear comments in blog  Creating “meta-tools” to keep overview of activities across tools  “Blog monitor”

A conceptual model of online collaborative communities (1)  Tool system  the system of integrated and customized information and communication tools tailored to the specific information, communication, and coordination requirements of a collaborative community  Tool system levels  Systems: “group report writing system”  Tools: “blogs”, “courseware”, “authoring support tool”  Modules: “position definition/taking”, “argument creation”  Functions: “add argument pro”, “add argument con”

A conceptual model of online collaborative communities (2)  Usage context  Goals  Activities: operationalized goals, with deliverable  “writing a group report”  Aspects: abstract goals, across processes and structures  “legitimacy”, “efficiency”  Actors  Detailed role ontologies  “Administrator”, “Facilitator”, “Member”  “WikiChampion”, “WikiZenMaster”  “Position Defender”, “Argument Summarizer”, “Report Conclusion Editor”  Domains  Professional culture, work practices, …

The power of patterns • WikiPatterns site – • Public Sphere project –

Collaboration patterns  Patterns  Define relatively stable solutions to recurring problems at the right level of abstraction  Collaboration patterns  Capture socio-technical lessons learnt in optimizing the effectiveness and efficiency of collaboration processes  Typology of collaboration patterns (De Moor, 2006)  Goal patterns  Communication patterns  Information patterns  Task patterns  Meta-patterns

Goal patterns  Capture community and individual objectives  “finished group report within two weeks”, “produce 3 arguments contra position X”

Communication patterns  Communicative workflow and norm definitions describing acceptable and desired communicative interactions (focus on (1) initiation, evaluation stages of communicative workflows, (2) roles played by members)  “Each student must define positions and pro-arguments for an assigned report section. All students may comment on these positions, but assigned students must define arguments pro or con. At the end of this stage, all students must take the defined positions.”

The case: an enabled communication pattern (before)

The case: an enabled communication pattern (after)

Application: communicating across virtual worlds

Application: collaboratories

R&D agenda  Activation of online collaborative communities not trivial  The concept of activation needs to be better understood  LAP, PragWeb  Socio-technical design patterns still in their infancy  Pragmatic collaboration support patterns  Norm-driven activation mechanisms  Other fields need to contribute: community informatics, coordination theory, CSCW, interoperability research, empirically grounded pattern languages, conceptual graphs…  Numerous applications

Yes we will  Many wicked problems: credit crisis, hunger, environment, climate, war...  Collaborative communities are key  ICT is a crucial enabler, but not sufficient  Tool systems are needed matched to collaborative context of use  Collaboration patterns help capture and apply lessons learnt  Inspiration + activation = collaboration  Towards a “World 2.0”

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