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Knowledge Production and Social Roles in an Online Community of Emerging Occupation: A Study of User Experience Practitioners on Reddit

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New occupations are emerging that have high job demand in the market, but lack a coherent body of disciplinary knowledge. For example, user experience (UX) design is an emerging occupation that has not been adequately supported by the traditional educational system. For learners beginning their undergraduate education, there is no concrete path to follow to become a UX professional, due to few UX-focused undergraduate academic programs. Online communities of practices have been recognized as important learning venues, even while institutions of formal education often lag behind in structuring knowledge production and distribution. However, little is known about how knowledge is generated and diffused in online communities in the context of emerging occupations with volatile knowledge boundaries. In this paper, we analyze knowledge production in relation to social roles in an online UX community. We show that knowledge production is highly distributed, involving the participation of community members of varied levels of experience. We discuss how online communities support the development of the UX occupation.

Paper: http://hdl.handle.net/10125/50148

Published in: Social Media
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Knowledge Production and Social Roles in an Online Community of Emerging Occupation: A Study of User Experience Practitioners on Reddit

  1. 1. A STUDY OF USER EXPERIENCE PRACTITIONERS ON REDDIT YUBO KOU, 
 COLIN M. GRAY, 
 AUSTIN L. TOOMBS, 
 AND ROBIN S. ADAMS PURDUE UNIVERSITY KNOWLEDGE PRODUCTION AND SOCIAL ROLES IN AN ONLINE COMMUNITY OF EMERGING OCCUPATION
  2. 2. KNOWLEDGE PRODUCTION AND SOCIAL ROLES IN AN ONLINE COMMUNITY OF EMERGING OCCUPATION 1
  3. 3. KNOWLEDGE PRODUCTION AND SOCIAL ROLES IN AN ONLINE COMMUNITY OF EMERGING OCCUPATION 2
  4. 4. KNOWLEDGE PRODUCTION AND SOCIAL ROLES IN AN ONLINE COMMUNITY OF EMERGING OCCUPATION 3
  5. 5. How are UX approaches adopted in practice? How do we educate students for careers in UX? courtesy of Nathanael Koyne: https://www.flickr.com/photos/purecaffeine/4328394839
  6. 6. Documenting elements of competence in UX practice
 (Gray, 2014) Mapping the flow or movement of competence between UX practitioners and companies
 (Gray, Toombs, & Gross, 2015) courtesy of Juhan Sonin: https://www.flickr.com/photos/juhansonin/7797009214 Identifying knowledge-sharing practices among 
 UX practitioners through social media
 (Gray & Kou, in review)
  7. 7. WHAT IS AN 
 “EMERGING” 
 OCCUPATION? “occupations […] that are becoming “numerically important or emerging due to technological change”
 (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 1994)
  8. 8. UX represents one such “emerging occupation”
  9. 9. Social media supports the development and sustainment of communities of practice (CoP) (e.g., Marlow and Dabbish, 2014). Flows of knowledge and communication are generally an evolution of legitimate peripheral participation, from novice to expert. In this study, we wanted to discover what kinds of knowledge work exist when there is no central definition of “expert” or “core knowledge,” such as in UX practice.
  10. 10. KNOWLEDGE PRODUCTION1 How does vocality influence knowledge activity in the online community? SOCIAL ROLES2 What roles do community members take on when participating?
  11. 11. /r/userexperience 970 posts; 6958 associated comments (JAN-AUG 2016) Descriptive Statistics Content 
 Analysis
  12. 12. KNOWLEDGE PRODUCTION1 How does vocality influence knowledge activity in the online community? POST COMMENT Score # Comments Author 
 Vocality Score Author Vocality Min 0 0 1 -17 1 Max 204 121 45 69 160 Avg. 9.16 7.21 5.35 2.32 26.63 SD 14.66 9.75 9.74 3.28 39.33
  13. 13. KNOWLEDGE PRODUCTION1 How does vocality influence knowledge activity in the online community? ‣ Vocal authors do not necessarily generate high- value posts (post: r=0.12; comment: r=0.11) ‣ People active in making posts are not necessarily active in making comments, and vice versa (r=0.28) ‣ People who are good at creating high value posts are not necessarily good at making high value comments (r=0.04).
  14. 14. SOCIAL ROLES2 What roles do community members take on when participating? TOP 50 POSTERS 83 USER ACCOUNTS 
 (4.3% of all accounts) TOP 50 COMMENTERS } 361 posts (37%); 2352 comments (34%)
  15. 15. Knowledge Broker (18/83) Translator (6/83) Experienced Practitioner (19/83) Conversation Facilitator (17/83) Learner (23/83) SOCIAL ROLES2 What roles do community members take on when participating? } 83 USER ACCOUNTS 
 (4.3% of all accounts) } 361 posts (37%); 2352 comments (34%)
  16. 16. KNOWLEDGE BROKER (18/83 = 21.7%) Knowledge brokers introduced knowledge they found novel and valuable to the community by sharing links to interesting UX articles, concepts, or newly published books. POST: How Tools Have Shaped the Role of the Designer POST: Dark Patterns are designed to trick you (and they’re all over the Web) POST: Seats in the street: How LA's outdoor furniture creates a more livable city SOCIALROLES2
  17. 17. TRANSLATOR (6/83 = 7.2%) Translators sought to bring academic knowledge into the community, drawing from their own experiences in other domains or disciplines. COMMENT: Author has a lot of opinion and seems to have set up his Slack poorly but...He does raise several very common CSCW issues which are in fact present in many collaboration systems like Slack that Slack has also not resolved yet… SOCIALROLES2
  18. 18. EXPERIENCED PRACTITIONER (19/83 = 22.9%) Experienced practitioners often self-identified as a senior UX practitioner with years of experience in UX design, including expertise in working with diverse groups and demonstrated familiarity with the UX industry. COMMENT: I have various documents I've types up on conducting research (e.g. best practice or industry specific), from carrying out stakeholder interviews to researching users needs. Also plenty on how to carry out heuristic reviews, SEO audits, routes in/out, topographic reviews, strategy process etc... SOCIALROLES2
  19. 19. CONVERSATION FACILITATOR (17/83 = 20.5%) Conversation facilitators did not introduce new knowledge. They tended to start and maintain thoughtful conversations with others, with posts frequently receiving high numbers of comments. POST: Looking for examples of US state selectors where the user can select multiple US states COMMENT: Maybe add a twist to it and make it your own instead of copying 100%. That's what I usually do if I REALLLY like a design. SOCIALROLES2
  20. 20. LEARNER (23/83 = 27.7%) Learners were generally students or junior UX designers who relied upon the community for suggestions and advice. COMMENT: i did two software engineering internships and halfway through the first one i decided it just wasn't for me. i wanted a career in something that would have a bigger impact on people. […] discovered ux halfway through my second internship, my last internship was full ux :) SOCIALROLES2
  21. 21. UX knowledge in the community RESEARCH–PRACTICE GAP ACADEMIC RESEARCH/THEORY TRANSLATOR Senior UX designers’ personal experiences LEARNER CONVERSATION FACILITATOR EXPERIENCED PRACTITIONER Knowledge on external sites (e.g., articles, design artifacts) KNOWLEDGE BROKER SOCIAL ROLES2
  22. 22. /R/USEREXPERIENCE AS A COMMUNITY OF EMERGING OCCUPATION
  23. 23. /R/USEREXPERIENCE AS A COMMUNITY OF EMERGING OCCUPATION ‣ Distinctive external forces such as high job demand and nascent undergraduate training ‣ Fragmented yet supportive knowledge work with no clearly defined “center” ‣ Bridges the knowledge gap among multiple stakeholders in UX practice, education, and 
 workforce development
  24. 24. COLINGRAY.ME | UXP2.COM GRAY42@PURDUE.EDU THANK YOU

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