Session 5: Social knowledge production and services

In this session, the readings focus on how the aggregation of user-generated content creates a knowledge production infrastructure that both works alongside and disrupts traditional information services.  You’ll need this background to refine your final project ideas, so you’re not just evaluating or redesigning a social computing site, but considering its role in a broader context.  I’ll be emailing you individually this week with a reaction to your final project ideas from last session.

By Sunday, March 17, 11:59pm

Most of the readings for this session focus on social computing tools that do some of the same work as existing systems and services:

  • Online peer production (e.g. open source software development) vs. in-person collaboration
  • Social tagging vs. professional cataloging and classification
  • Social recommender systems vs. real-world advice seeking
  • Social Q&A sites vs. libraries or schools

Choose one of the above comparisons (or propose another), and discuss on your blog some of the ways in which the pair of information exchange environments you chose can inform each other. Use specific examples from at least two of the four readings from this session (I won’t feel bad if you don’t address the one I wrote :)), and at least one screenshot from a relevant site to ground your points. And make sure you address both sides: for example, if you propose that a strength of Social Q&A can help address a weakness in traditional education, then also discuss how a strength of traditional education can improve a weakness of Social Q&A. Why do you think the two perspectives can benefit one other, and what would some tradeoffs be?

Some cautions: strive to make your analysis both actionable and non-obvious. If you find yourself thinking that the two environments you’ve chosen are too different to be usefully compared, then choose others. Your goal is to identify examples of how social and traditional knowledge production and services can plausibly inform one another, so you can begin to understand why they were created in the context of existing alternatives, what social and informational problems they were designed to solve, and why particular sites become popular while others wither.

Conclude your post with your final project topic.  Review the final project guidelines posted in the Session 4 blog to make sure what you’re proposing can meet the requirements.  If you are proposing a joint or alternative project that differs from what you proposed in your Session 4 post, make sure you email me before the deadline so we can negotiate details.

By Friday, March 22, 11:59pm:

Comment on at least 5 other students’ posts. Feel free to address either the session’s topic or their final projects.  As usual, if there are people you haven’t interacted with much, strive to even out your comments.

By Sunday, March 24, 11:59pm:

Conclude your conversations–then enjoy Spring Break!

The Session 6 blog will go up Monday April 1.