Session 6–Online identity and interaction

by richgazan

I hope you enjoyed spring break.  One of the advantages of taking a course that’s been taught several times before is that I’ve seen a few common places where students tend to stumble or get lost.  This is one of those places.  At the end of session 5, I asked you to declare your final project topics, but it’s remotely possible you may not have thought much about projects for this or any class over the break :).  Therefore, I’m requiring you to do what most successful projects do: run a small pilot study, early enough to integrate the results into the design and execution of your final project.

This session will be conducted (and graded) differently than the others.   You can earn some extra credit points this session (max 12 instead of the usual 10), and the report of your pilot study results can be included directly in your final project writeup.

This session’s readings cover topics you’ll need to understand in order to make sense of your results: how people create and express online identities within the context of particular communities.  One of the primary reasons people participate in social computing sites is that they provide the ability to do things and adopt identities we can’t in our offline lives.  Apply some of the concepts and findings from these readings–both what they’ve done, and what they should have done but didn’t–to your final projects.

By Sunday, April 7, 11:59pm

Part 1: Pilot study (5 points):

Before starting, review the final project guidelines posted in the Session 4 blog closely.  Then conduct a small pilot study for your final project following the guidelines below.  Report the following on your blog, even if you’ve mentioned some of this in prior posts:

  • The research question you’re addressing, the site or sites where you’re conducting research, and the method(s) you’ll use to analyze the data
  • Collect and analyze roughly 10% of the data you’re planning for your final project, and discuss your initial findings on your blog.  Does the data address your research question satisfactorily?  Did new questions arise?  Now that you’ve collected and analyzed some data, how will you use this initial experience to create a final project that meets the (admittedly lofty) goals set out in the final project guidelines?
  • I understand everyone’s project is different, and yours may not fit easily into the pilot study requirements above—if that’s the case, email me at least three days before this blog post is due to ask questions and discuss your options.

Part 2: Session 6 readings (5 points):

  • Propose a working definition of online identity as it relates to a site you are studying for your final project, and compare it to one or more of those found in the readings.  Then contrast your definition with Wellman et al.’s sense of networked individualism.
  • Write two informal use scenarios (outlines of common interactions) based on your observations of existing users. In each scenario, describe how an individual with a predictable need enters your community, navigates through common decision points and options step by step, then (ideally) exits with what he or she came for. Include functional interactions (decision points relevant to the user’s goal; you need not exhaustively list all options) and interpersonal interactions. Don’t worry about formal scenario structure, just communicate the information in a paragraph or bulleted list. Write one “sunny day” use scenario (a common interaction where all goes as expected), and one “rainy day” scenario (an uncommon but plausible interaction where it doesn’t).
  • Conclude by discussing how your final project research might help turn a rainy day scenario into a sunny one for the users of the site(s) you’re studying.

By Friday, April 12, 11:59pm

Part 3: Comments (2 points):  Comment on at least five other students’ posts, and remember to make your comments as specific and actionable as possible.  Most of you have done an outstanding job of interacting and helping each other via the comments section throughout the course, and this is probably the last chance you’ll have to make suggestions for other students’ projects.

By Sunday, April 14, 11:59pm

Conclude your conversations.  The Session 7 (final!) blog will be posted Monday April 15.

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