.comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}

Sometimes I Wish That It Would Rain Here

Friday, March 02, 2012

Highlights from CSCW 2012

Here's a quick summary of things that I thought were cool/interesting/noteworthy from CSCW this year.

DIST Workshop - Cool set of people, lots of great conversations about the interrelations among design, value, social influence, participation, and reflection. Check the list of papers and the working bibliography for more details.

Keynote - Amazing opening plenary by Yochai Benkler. Not only did he do a comprehensive survey of the research published CSCW this year, but he showed how it all fits together under an umbrella of understanding cooperative action. He specifically argued against the use of rational actor economic models that assume the individual will always act in her/his own best interest, and that this shift mirrors an intellectual evolution in multiple fields--economics, biology, politics, etc.--that's taken place over the last couple decades.

We Don't Need No Stinking Badges, Jones and Altadona - Study on the impact of adding badges to the Huffington Post's comment system. Looked at whether the presence of badges (of different types) led to more unique replies or longer comment threads. In general, badges had almost no major, i.e., statistically significant, impact. Nice example of a case where gamification was not particularly effective.

Lurking as Personal or Situational, Muller - Uses data from communities at IBM to test different theories about lurkers: binary (individual is a lurker or not), engagement (lurking is a form of engagement, so individual who lurks in many communities should also contribute in many communities), or social learning (individual starts off as a lurker then may become a contributor, a la Lave and Wenger's LPP). Results suggest that lurking is not a binary trait, but they also suggest that social learning does not happen. In general, people show up, contribute to a community at first, then either lurk or leave. Interesting finding that is contrary to previous theories, e.g., reader-to-leader.

Designing for Social Translucence, McDonald, Gokhman, Zachry - Paper about a system that analyzes interactions among wiki contributors (e.g., editing the same page, posting on each others' discussion pages) and visualizes those interactions to show something resembling social closeness. Couched in a theoretical approach that distinguishes between actions (different types of things that people do with and around one another) and levels of interpretation (looking at those interactions as either an instance, a series, or a structure). This paper has a lot going on, both technically and conceptually, and definitely merits a closer read through.

Gender and Wikipedia - I wasn't actually able to attend this panel, but I eavesdropped via the #cscw2012 Twitter stream. Super interesting stuff. Seems that different estimates put the gender balance of Wikipedia contributors somewhere between 80% and 90% male. Hence the panel's title: "Some of All Human Knowledge." One of the most interesting comments that made it to the tweet stream was that gender is not a binary, and that the discussion could benefit from considering more than just male and female. Awesome stuff.

Supporting Reflective Public Thought with ConsiderIt, Kriplean, Morgan, Freelon, Borning, Bennett - Presents the design of, and experience with, the ConsiderIt platform, deployed during the 2010 US election as the Seattle Living Voters Guide. Examines how articulation of arguments for and against a ballot measure can help facilitate reflection, and, in many cases, leads people to adopt less strong positions. I asked about how this might expand to an issues where more than two positions (i.e., not just a simple yes or no) were involved. He suggested that ConsiderIt is useful once the alternatives have been selected, but that other tools would better facilitate those stages of the decision process where alternatives were still being articulated. I also found myself wondering later the extent to which this represents deliberation. I'll believe that it's reflection, especially considering the ways that user took into account opposing arguments, but the connection to deliberation is a bit more tenuous for me. Great work, though, and always nice to see academic research that engages with the community.

There were lots of other great sessions and papers, including one that used video shadowing (i.e., basically stalking study participants) to understand how people blend multiple communication channels in their multi-device interactions, and one that examined information practices of punk rock subcultures (e.g., how do you find out about secret shows that are in the basements of private homes?). The closing plenary (.pptx) was also a tour de force in the history of the relationship between anthropology and ethnography. Altogether very interesting stuff.

Labels: ,