Analysis and Design of Online Interaction Environments
[NOTE: This page is copied from a private wiki site for the class. Many links go
that site, which is accessible only if you know the password. You can follow the
link to the course schedule only.]
SI 684 (shadow course 884 for Ph.D. students)
Office hours winter 2005
3210 SI North
GSI DerekHansen (for 884)
Office hours winter 2005
B138 in Shapiro Library Basement
Course blog site∞
This course is intended to help students to analyze online interaction environments with an eye toward design. For the purpose of this course, a community is defined as a group of people who sustain interaction over time. The group may be held together by a common identity, a collective purpose, or merely by the individual utility gained from the interactions. An online interaction environment is an electronic forum, accessed through computers or other electronic devices, in which community members can conduct some or all of their interactions. We will use the term eCommunity as shorthand, both for communities that conduct all of their interactions online and for communities that use on-line interaction to supplement face-to-face interactions.
Two main threads will weave through the course. One thread will be concerned with the practical issues of design and use of online tools to support communities, and how choices that must be made in design can impact the function and style of the resulting community. The second thread will focus on psychological and economic theories that provide a frame to better understand communities in general. These theoretical pieces will provide a lens for better understanding the implications of choices made on the more practical level. The topics, readings, and technologies for each week can be found at the
) At the end of this course, a student should be able to:
- identify the major social and technical design elements of an online community and understand the implications of specific design choices on the community;
- design a new on-line community or design useful new features or activities for existing communities.
) At the end of this course, a student should:
- have a grounding in research on online communities and some relevant underlying social science theories;
- understand who some of the key researchers are in this area, what research communities are interested in online communities, and why;
- be able to form a research question about online communities, select an appropriate method to answer that question, know who is looking into similar questions, and know where to publish the results of your research.
SI 501 and SI 504. 502 is a co-requisite, meaning that it can be taken at the same time as this course.
In particular, students need:
- From 501, students need to have learned how to observe, interview, and/or do surveys in order to elicit user needs. Students will use these skills as appropriate to the study of the community they choose.
- From 504, students should be familiar with concepts such as roles, norms, and routines. They also need to have developed sophistication about how information collections and social systems coevolve. The Wenger text for this course is very dense and relies heavily on concepts such as codetermination, coevolution, and dualities, concepts that will be far easier to understand after students have taken 504.
- From 502, students need to understand the concepts of public goods, information asymmetry, and opportunity costs. It is OK to take 502 concurrently with this course.
Students who convince themselves and the instructor that they have equivalent preparation on these dimensions can waive the formal pre-requisites.
In addition, students need to know what kinds of tools are available to supported distributed, synchronous and asynchronous communication (e.g., chat, instant messaging, message boards, audio and video conferencing, live application sharing). Students who are unfamiliar with these but are comfortable learning new technologies on their own will have the opportunity to explore these at their own pace. This course will spend very little time explicitly teaching about technology, but will frequently assume it as background.
The required texts, which we’ll be reading from over the semester, are:
- Powazek2001: Powazek, Derek (2001) Design for Community (Amazon link∞; buy it now; we're providing chapter one because we didn't warn you in advance of the need to buy the book; chapter 2 is coming up Jan.26)
- Wenger1998: Wenger, Etienne (1998) Communities of Practice (Amazon link∞; buy it now; we'll start reading this for the Feb. 2 class) . [Note: you want Communities of Practice, 1988, not the more recent "Cultivating Communities of Practice."]
- Kim2000: Kim, Amy Jo (2000) Community Building on the Web (Out of print-- required excerpts will be available on-line)
We’ll be reading excerpts from the following books, but the excerpts will be available on-line.
- Smith1998: Smith, Marc A and Peter Kollock, eds. Communities in Cyberspace
- Minow1997: Minow, Martha, Not Only For Myself: Identity, Politics, and the Law
We are arranging for all the required readings, except those from Powazek2001
, to be available on-line.
Some optional readings listed in the syllabus are not available online-- you'll have to track those down yourself.
Most of the class discussion of course texts and readings will occur on-line, using a combination of this group Wiki, a ClassEmailList
(eCommunities@umich.edu) with a "best-of" nomination process, and personal blogs that you'll be setting up. Each week there will be assigned readings and many weeks there will be an assigned technology for you to familiarize yourself with. For each reading or technology, the discussion will follow the following process:
- Phase I--initial writeup. By Sunday at 6PM, the designated discussion leader will be responsible for writing up the WIKI page for that article/chapter or technology. We will provide an ExampleArticleTemplate for what that should look like. For readings, the writeup will contain a summary of the key points/claims made in the article/chapter, a section critiquing the article/chapter, and a section connecting the article to other articles or ideas. The writeup for students in 884 will be based upon ExampleArticleTemplate884 and will emphasize the research contribution, research methods, strengths and limitations of the article. For technologies, the writeup will contain a summary of the key features that distinguish the technology from others, and then a section suggesting the contexts of use that would be best suited to the technology. See ExampleTechTemplate and ExampleTechTemplate884 for recommended content areas.
- Phase II-- everyone comments. By Monday at 6PM, each student is responsible for doing the reading and technology exploration, reading the writeups posted by the discussion leaders, and sending at least one email to the ClassEmailList. That email should focus on the same topics as the initial writeups: key points and critique of those points for articles/chapters, and key features and contexts of use for technologies. The emails can also try to draw connections beyond the boundaries of the specific article or technology.
- You are encouraged to send more than one message during this discussion period, and to respond directly to other students' messages. The designated discussion leader is expected to be especially active.
- Any message that you think is worthy of nomination as "best of discussion" message should be forwarded to nominate.eCommunities@umich.edu. These will be appended to the bottom of the appropriate review page for the writeup, in order of how many votes they get.
- The designated discussion leader is responsible for updating the writeup based on the discussion. However, anyone else in the class is also welcome to edit the writeup (even if you're not the discussion leader). If you have an idea for how the writeup can be improved (or you notice a typo), feel free to go ahead and make changes-- if the discussion manager doesn't like your changes, s/he can just remove them.
- Phase III-- what it means for you. By Tuesday at 6PM, each student is responsible for posting to a personal weblog at least one entry about how the week's readings and technology relate to the online community they have picked to study. (Exception: the very first week, in Phase III, you have to send an email to the ClassEmailList saying what online community or communities you are thinking about studying for the semester.)
- Students are encouraged to comment on each other’s blog posts about how the course concepts relate to the community they are studying. Students are also encouraged to elicit feedback on their blog entries from members of the communities they are studying.
The 684 class meets on Wednesday mornings, usually only from 9-10:30 or 9-11, though occasionally we may go until noon. The 884 class will usually continue on after 684 finishes, until noon.
In class, we will clarify any unresolved issues from the ClassEmailList
discussion. I expect that this will typically take 10 minutes or less.
Most of the time in class will be spent discussing one or two of the communities that members of the class have chosen to study for the semester. Based on the blog posts from Phase III, I will pick one or two students each week to be the focus of the in-class discussion. Note that the in-class discussion is expected to range over the entire set of concepts covered up to that point in the semester, but focused on how they apply to the particular online community that the student is studying. However, I will try to pick students for whom the current week's topic seems especially pertinent.
The 884-only class time will follow a similar format, but with a focus on issues related to the selected student's research project, and a special emphasis on the topic of the week.
This is a 3-credit course, so you should expect to spend, on average, 12 hours per week on the course, over the course of the 14 week semester. Here's my approximate estimate of how that time would be split up:
- required reading (4 hours)
- class time (1.5 hours)
- participation in weekly online discussion (1.5 hours)
- weekly post connecting readings to your community (1 hour)
- your "occasional" duties as discussion leader/wiki editor (1 hour / week averaged over the term)
- major assignments (3 hours/week averaged over the term)
Note in particular that I am expecting you to spend an hour and a half each week dedicated to the on-line discussion, the amount of time that I've cut out of the in-class discussion. Please take this seriously.
Assignments and Grading
All students will be asked early in the semester to pick an existing on-line community to study. You will try to connect the readings throughout the semester to what you observe in that community. All students must also...
- Weekly (20%)
- At least one comment in the "what does it say/is it correct stage of discussion".
- At least one blog post connecting ideas from each week's readings to the online community you're studying, or to your research project.
- Occasional (30 %)
- Discussion leader/wiki editor for the writeup on particular papers or technologies
- Case study discussion of your on-line community in class
From there, the assignments diverge for students in 684 and 884.
In 684, students will have two papers due at the end of the semester.
- (30%) Final paper describing your community as a case study in terms of the concepts from the papers and books. This paper will draw on the blog entries you make in Phase III throughout the semester, but will pull them together into a coherent case study of the community using the concepts from the course. (20-30 pages, double spaced)
- (20%) Shorter paper discussing the results of some intervention that you make (5-7 pages). For this project you must either start a new on-line community, or introduce some technological or social change in some existing on-line community, inspired by something you learned in the class. It's OK to think about very small changes. For example, you might start posting a weekly summary, or a weekly question, or you might take on the role of welcoming and introducing newcomers, or you might hold an awards ceremony, or... The paper should describe what you did and why, and then reflect on how well it worked. If you do not carry out the intervention in the same community that you write about for your final paper, this paper may have to be a bit longer, in order to provide sufficient background to motivate the design project.
In 884, students will have two required papers due throughout the semester:
In addition, students interested in learning how to write an article review are encouraged to look at the ArticleReviewAssignment
which is no longer required.
for weekly readings, technologies, and assignment deadlines
Some additional useful pages: FormattingRules