Feb. 6th, 2010

yourlibrarian: SamatWork-no_apologies_86 (SPN-SamatWork-no_apologies_86)
[personal profile] yourlibrarian
I attended the following presentation this week and found the discussion of needed research in the area of increasing the usability of online communities interesting. So I thought I'd post the write-up here in case others might find it of interest.

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My own impression is that the comment regarding grant work was the most telling of the presentation. While Hearst talked about prizes and challenges, such an approach is poorly targeted to academics. It is, however, well targeted to corporations or entrepreneurs. These days a lot of academics have to raise half their salaries through grants. They can't put in several years of work on the off chance that they might win a prize. This is particularly true given that all grants must include overhead expenses which go to the academic institution, so their employers would also lose out on such a process. In addition, the sort of work Hearst describes -- collaborative online work with no specific outcome -- goes against the publishing need of academics who are rewarded much more lightly for anything but traditional (and frequent) publications.

At the same time, his comment about who would participate in such projects strikes me as being on-the-nose. No online communities, regardless of how passionate the user base, tend to have a great many people doing all the work. It's generally a small core group, and even these people rotate in and out of intense activity. So who would have the time and motivation to take part in these various endeavors? Corporate reps -- either openly or undercover. Businesses are already hiring many PR people to work through social networking sites to promote their products and spin their image. They're the ones who have a stake in what gets decided by public policy, and to make sure that things go their way. If this effort at public input starts making inroads into public policy and expenditure, I'm pretty sure that "public participation reps" will be an area of future employment.

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Social Informatics and Media Studies

April 2010

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