Published on January 23, 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 – http://www.wikipatterns.com • Public Sphere project – http://www.publicsphereproject.org/patterns/pattern.pl/public
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
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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