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Factors Affecting the Success of Social Machines

The final speaker in this Web Science 2016 session is Clare Hooper, whose interest is in 'social machines' as defined by Tim Berners-Lee: systems were people do the creative work, and machines take care of the administration. Social machines will exist in the context of problems to be solved; they may be created by single stakeholders (as in the case of Galaxy Zoo), while others arise in a more emergent fashion (from online communities).

Modelling Convergent Social Tagging Processes

Next up at Web Science 2016 is Paul Seitlinger, whose interest is in social tagging practices. These provide a valuable insight into human cognition and offer an opportunity to validate lab-based models 'in the wild'. One key question in this is how semantic stabilisation, or consensual use of tags, comes into being. This is influenced by the interplay of both human and non-human actors.

Matching Diverse Web Taxonomies

The next session at Web Science 2016 starts with Natalia Boldyrev, whose focus is on Web taxonomies. There are a number of different approaches to taxonomies, from traditional librarian approaches to user-generated taxonomies, and from hierarchical catalogues of terms to unordered tag clouds. Such taxonomies are also culturally predicated: the taxonomy for football-related books in the German Amazon is much more detailed than it is in Amazon US, for instance.

How Trolls Emerge: Do Community Evaluations Generate Negativity?

Day two of Web Science 2016 begins with a keynote by Jure Leskovec, whose interest is in antisocial behaviour in social media spaces. He begins by noting that the Web has moved from a document repository or library to a social space, where users contribute content and provide feedback to each other. Platforms for this include the main social media spaces, as well as Reddit, StackOverflow, and the comment sections of news sites.

These two metaphors for the Web – as a library and as a social space – are very different from each other, especially in how users are policed and controlled. In the latter model, one user's experience is a function of other users' experiences, and the question thus becomes how to keep users engaged and promote positive, constructive behaviour – and how to police the small groups of users who disrupt the community and have a disproportionately large effect on all other users' experiences.

Motivations for Participating in Gamified Citizen Science Projects

The final speaker in this WebSci 2016 session is Ramine Tinati, whose focus is on citizen science platforms. Citizen science itself has been around for hundreds of years, but more recent developments in online crowdsourcing techniques have enabled even greater mass participation in such scientific activities; one early success in this was Zooniverse, which asks users for help in classifying galaxy types.

Crowdsourced Journalism in Finland

I arrived a little late to Tanja Aitamurto's AoIR 2015 paper about crowdsourced journalism in northern Europe, where news sites used their readers to gather data on homeloan terms, for instance – crowdsourcing is thus defined as a mechanism for collaborative problem-solving that is driven by the initiator of the project; the locus of power therefore remains with the media organisation.

The Industrialisation of User Recommendations

Cécile Méadel and Francesca Musiani are the final speakers in this ECREA 2014 session. Their interest is in the Industrialisation of user contributions through online platforms: this includes recommendations, information, and advice. The Internet reconfigures the mechanisms by which goods and services are assessed by others; this creates an economy of qualities.

The process has been increasingly automatised through contemporary Internet technologies, and this allows new practices. This is an industrialisation of user contributions, drawing increasingly on 'big data' approaches that create links between a variety of different data points.

Political Action in Non-Political Online Fora

The next speakers at ECREA 2014 are Daniel Jackson and Todd Graham, who are interested in the use of online third spaces for political action. This is especially important at a time of austerity which tends to let citizens fend for themselves rather than providing government support. To what extent does political talk in these spaces lead to political action, then?

The study looked at the discussion fora of Money Saving Expert, Digital Spy, and Netmums to explore the presence of political talk in these otherwise non-political spaces and identify the presence of commitments or calls to further political action.

From Worker-Generated Content in China to Hong Kong's Umbrella Revolution

The AoIR 2015 keynote today is by Jack Linchuan Qiu, whose begins by highlighting the contributions Asian communication and Internet researchers and practitioners have made to their fields, from very early research publications to Korea. citizen journalism site OhmyNews, Chinese Internet giant Alibaba, and most recently the incomplete "umbrella revolution" in Hong Kong.

But Asia is also the industrial base of the global digital revolution, and in this it remains part of the global south. Here, classic 19th century-style industrial struggles take place using 21st-century communication technologies. The problems around Apple iPhone manufacturer Foxconn represent just the tip of the iceberg for these kinds of struggles.

To illustrate this, Jack discusses the picture of a handwritten protest poem which was posted to a tree in the manufacturing town Dongguan, and was shared virally using social media. Transmitted through social media, this is an expression of digital activism, similar to so many other campaigns around the world. But in Asia it also has a special meaning, as it represents workers armed with smart phones challenging the Chinese social and industrial model. The recent tidal wave of social media use amongst Chinese workers is just as important to study as the Arab Spring uprisings.

Understanding the Cultural Intermediary

The next session at AoIR 2015 starts with CCI graduate Jonathon Hutchinson, whose work is on the integration of user participation into the activities of public service media. User participation is not new, but in fact some form of user participation may just be interaction – there is a need to also make sure that participation is relevant, to both users and organisations.

A useful concept to use in this context is the idea of co-creation, bringing together users and organisations as mutual stakeholders in the participatory process. This may also result in a clash of heterarchical community and hierarchical organisational structures – and the organisational staff charged with managing institutional online communities are the ones to negotiate that clash. These community managers serve as cultural intermediaries between the two sides.


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