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Old 2009-05-25, 14:25   #1
garo's Avatar
Aug 2002
Termonfeckin, IE

24·173 Posts
Default Social Network Analysis Project

A colleague at my university is writing some software to analyze decision-making in a virtual community. Here is his somewhat technical explanation. Basically I am asking if people in the community object to forum data being used for this kind of research. The data will be fully anonymized before being given to him so absolutely no personal details - not even forum ids will be revealed.


Visualisation Tools for the Mersenne forum
This paper briefly outlines a proposal to create visualisation tools for the mersenne forum that will reflect the ongoing community process back to the users of the site.
The ultimate or long-term aim of this research is to develop visualisation tools that will help the community to progressively self-manage. This paradigm is reflected in communities like Wikipedia and open source software (OSS) initiatives in which groups of geographically disparate individuals self-organise to pursue a shared set of objectives. To ensure trust and encourage commitment management of peer-based communities is undertaken in a decentralised manner: i.e. management decision-making is conducted in a collective, participative manner free of centralised control by a single member. Policy rules and social norms develop and in turn evolve to reduce communication overhead and ensure more effective coordination. What begins as a social norm will often evolve into a more explicit policy rule when, for instance, there is a notable increase in community membership. At the same time, guidelines are developed to support and reinforce the community’s organisational structure. Organisation undertaken in this manner is emergent, evolutionary and non-prescriptive.
We propose that underlying technology can assist the complex and evolutionary nature of peer-based communities by firstly providing a means for the community as a whole to reflect on the collective behaviour of the group (Fisher, Smith et al. 2006; Kelly, Fisher et al. 2006), secondly by automating explicit policy rules as illustrated by both the blocking and deletion rules of Wikipedia (Butler, Joyce et al. 2008), and thirdly supporting the communication model, thus reducing communication overhead and helping to identify the misinterpretation of communication.
To help the community cohere and develop in a progressive and non-restrictive manner, we propose the creation of social visualisations. Social visualisations are small graphic interfaces that illustrate different aspects of a community’s process. In Figure 1, for example, topics of conversation are charted against time and group activity. By illustrating the relationship between topic and activity, community members may reflect on how the community is engaged as a whole. At the same, other research on Social Network Analysis (SNA) suggests that exposing the community members to the community process may in fact improve contribution (Brush, Wang et al. 2005).
Any work will be carried out on annonymised data and only with the full support of the community. From initial discussions with members and administrators, we envision the creation of visualisation tools, available to the whole community, that will illustrate some activity on the forum. While unfortunately this is a little vague, it is only from initial discussions, a brief analysis of the community’s organisation and a more thorough observation of the forum’s process, can we begin to develop visualisation tools that will benefit the community as a whole.
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