In keeping with the highly interdisciplinary nature of the MLS program, I'll be broadening my paper to include material from such fields as UI Design, Information Visualization, and Chaos Theory. In essence, I'll be looking for answers to Social Software's pressing questions where ever I can find them, but it social psychology or otherwise.
I think this will make my paper more exploratory than prescriptive, which is a good thing considering the time I've allotted myself! Plus, it allows me to include cool tidbits like Thinkmaps and SmartMaps. Meme Theory is also fair game, which is good news since I had planned to include it anyway, even though it's not technically a social psych thang.
Next week, I hope to much of the introduction & lit review written. Cross your fingers...
I've been waiting for my copy of the Handbook of Social Psychology since July. Amazon keeps promising they'll ship it soon, but I guess this seminal reference work is an elusive creature. The U of MN Libraries certainly don't have it, and neither does Elliot Hall's psychology library. Go figure.
So, I've compiled my primary sources on the social software side. Now, I'm going directly to the library to research the outstanding questions in the field. If I get my Handbook someday soon, good for me. If not, who needs it!?
'Tis time for this little project to begin in earnest. Despite a few false starts, I've gotten pretty deep into the social software literature this summer. I've read a lot of commentary from the likes of Clay Shirky and Meg Hourihan, as well as a spattering of scientific and almost-scientific articles that examine online social interactions from a psychological perspective.
Unfortunately, very little of this material takes the form of specific design guidelines. As mentioned in my last post, this means a change in the focus of my project. Now, I'm trying to boil all this commentary and experimentation down to a list of the central questions facing social software...
- "How to control anti-social behavior" is a given. Trolling, flame wars, and simple lack of productivity have plagued the internet since its inception.
- "How to promote high rates of participation" is another popular topic, if only because low activity is death to online communities. However, only a few people are starting to ask "How much is too much?"
My task will be to find grounded, social psych theories that can 1) provide answers to these questions and 2) guide the design of effective social software.
It has occurred to me, in the course of my reading, that I may have misidentified my thesis' burden of proof. My current proposal aims to demonstrate that social psychology can be used to design better social software than the current body of literature. However, I now realize that the current literature is somewhat lacking in specific, concrete design guidelines.
Rather, there are just a lot of questions about human behavior and how software can accomodate it. This provides me a different opportunity than I originally thought: to demonstrate that social psychology can answer the current literature's pressing questions.
I see this as a positive change in focus, because modern social psychology (of precisely the kind that's never referenced in the current literature) is replete with tested theories on disinhibition, diffusion of responsibility, power and authority, social scripts, and so on. I shall not suffer from a lack of things to say!