Designing From Theory


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Designing From Theory

  1. 1. Designing from Theory Social Media – Dr. Giorgos Cheliotis ( Communications and New Media, National University of Singapore
  2. 2. Introduction  We talked last week about cooperation, public goods, and possible solutions for the ‘social fence’ and ‘social trap’ problems  Now it is time to focus more on ‘social fence’-type problems, i.e. how to motivate contributions to a community, and specifically examine what could work well in an online setting  We will assume here the perspective of a community manager and designer, i.e. someone who has the power to change how an online community functions with specific interventions that may have the desired effects, but sometimes may also backfire  We will also introduce more concepts from social psychology, which will provide a complementary perspective to that of last week’s readings  Finally we will ask whether it is possible to design online communities by mining social science theory, and where design becomes more art than science 2 CNM Social Media Module – Giorgos Cheliotis (
  3. 3. The truth about participation (1 of 2)  The age of web 2.0 has been heralded as an aged of increased civic participation contributions steep decline  But many studies have confirmed that it is only a small fraction of online users that are active contributors  Because online resources are generally short tail non-depletable, free-riding is in most cases not so much of a problem; also, the existence of a more passive ‘audience’ can members be a motivator for those who actually 10% 90% contribute  But many online communities do suffer Online communities depend on a small from lacking a critical mass of active number of top contributors (10% of member base or less). If they leave, a participants, so we need to ask how we community can fall apart. Most members can increase motivations to contribute will contribute very little or nothing at all. 3 CNM Social Media Module – Giorgos Cheliotis (
  4. 4.  First we need to list again the reasons why people contribute, also taking into account factors that could inhibit contribution, even when the desire to cooperate is present  Then we can ask how to reinforce cooperative behavior and grow the number of valuable contributions 4 CNM Social Media Module – Giorgos Cheliotis (
  5. 5. What drives people to contribute to team efforts? The following diagrams are based on the lit. review and findings in Ling et al, 2005 and Tedjamulia et al, 2005… 5 CNM Social Media Module – Giorgos Cheliotis (
  6. 6. Personal motivators ILLUSTRATIVE ONLY AND LIKELY INCOMPLETE IN PARTS If we attempt to synthesize the connections between various motivators as Design levers discussed in the literature, we may come up with a diagram as below… (see also following pages) Need to Goal Learning achieve difficulty (private reward) Self-efficacy Contribution Enjoyment (intrinsic) Individual Uniqueness goal Note: every such attempt will be incomplete, but can be helpful in thinking about interactions between motivations and how they may jointly lead to contributions 6 CNM Social Media Module – Giorgos Cheliotis (
  7. 7. Environmental motivators ILLUSTRATIVE ONLY AND LIKELY INCOMPLETE IN PARTS Design levers Common Trust in group bond Common Attachment Usability identity to group* Group size Group goal Contribution Relative Importance contribution value of goal Personal Goal Responsibility commitment Visibility Uniqueness (identifiability) *A ‘group’ here can refer to the entire community or a subgroup that a user selects or is assigned to 7 CNM Social Media Module – Giorgos Cheliotis (
  8. 8. Reinforcers Design levers Social Demonstrating public recognition for individual or group efforts, listing recognition top contributors, providing commendations or compliments, etc. Providing feedback on an individual’s performance, as compared to an Performance individual or group target or to the performance of others in the appraisal community Providing financial incentives, e.g., monetary prizes, often in the context of Financial contests where the best entries are eligible for a prize. rewards Caveat: such rewards can have a negative impact on intrinsic motivation and cooperation. Providing in-kind rewards, such as items that will be useful to In kind community members in producing higher quality content in the future rewards (e.g., hardware or software). Note: may be more acceptable to community (less divisive) than financial rewards. 8 CNM Social Media Module – Giorgos Cheliotis (
  9. 9. Practical advice on reinforcers  Reinforcers must be meaningful to members and fair, i.e. applied in proportion to a member’s contribution  The sources of the reinforcement should be credible in the eyes of the community (i.e. community manager, peers, senior members, or outside parties that are respected by the community)  Reinforcers must be salient, i.e. clearly visible, transparent and recognizable (e.g., badges that users can attach to their profiles, prizes awarded according to well-defined criteria and announced publicly, etc.)  Reinforcers should be applied shortly after a contribution is made, in order to be more effective. Also, their application should be relatively infrequent and in any case should not be allowed to dominate over intrinsic motivations to contribute 9 CNM Social Media Module – Giorgos Cheliotis (
  10. 10. Goals (1 of 2) Design levers Individual commitment to a group goal will generally depend on the individual’s Group goal commitment/attachment to the group, and the perceived relative importance of his/her contribution Individual goals may be more effective than group goals, as social loafing theory would predict that individual goals would lead to greater commitment and satisfaction upon Individual goal completion; however, empirical testing in online communities did not find support for this hypothesis Setting more challenging (individual or group) goals leads to greater motivation and satisfaction upon completion. It probably also leads to greater learning, which can also Goal difficulty be a motivator for the provision of public goods according to the private-collective model. But too high a goal may have the opposite effect An individual’s commitment to a given goal may not be fully revealed and is not Goal entirely controllable in any case. But asking for individuals to publicly commit to (self- commitment selected or assigned) tasks could increase their motivation to complete them. The more an individual perceives him/herself as someone with unique skills, personality or other characteristics that may be valued by a community, the more Uniqueness he/she will be motivated to contribute towards a common goal. This likely also increases the sense of self-efficacy in achieving any goal (group or individual). 10 CNM Social Media Module – Giorgos Cheliotis (
  11. 11. Goals (2 of 2) Design levers Making individual contributions visible to the entire community (with every group or individual achievement being traceable back to an identifiable member) boosts Visibility motivations to contribute and goal commitment. It is also a facilitator of social recognition for one’s efforts. When one knows that one’s contribution to a group goal is measurable and essential, Relative one is more motivated to contribute. Contribution value can be artificially boosted, contribution e.g., in funding campaigns, when a donor pledges to double the amount of money value donated by individuals towards a cause. Best is when the contribution is meaningful to both the individual and the group. The more an individual perceives him/herself as someone with unique skills, personality or other characteristics that may be valued by a community, the more Uniqueness he/she will be motivated to contribute towards a common goal. This likely also increases the sense of self-efficacy in achieving any goal (group or individual). Reinforcing a sense of uniqueness is also a way of boosting individual perceptions of the relative value of a contribution to a group, without having to increase the size or difficulty of the contribution. 11 CNM Social Media Module – Giorgos Cheliotis (
  12. 12. The truth about participation (2 of 2)  The ability of online communities to break across organizational boundaries and tap into diverse talent as well as find motivated contributors wherever they may be is considered one of their greatest strengths  But people’s limited attention spans and changing priorities (with low commitment to individual communities and tasks) can be the greatest challenge  It is essential then that communities cultivate member bonds and a sense of common identity so as to retain top contributors, as well as take in new members to make up for attrition! 12 CNM Social Media Module – Giorgos Cheliotis (
  13. 13. Groups, bonds and common identity The distinction between identity and bond refers to people’s different reasons for being in a group, that is because they like the group as a whole – identity- based attachment, or because they like the group as a whole – bond-based attachment (Back1951, via Ren et al 2007) Common bond Common identity Tendency for smaller group Easier to maintain larger groups, Group size formation and cliques more open less resistant to attrition (loyalty more resistant; group identity Cohesion with people, not group) and less matters more than individual welcoming to newcomers members; newcomers welcome off-topic discussions discussions on topic, public; Communication and group/one-on-one off-topic may be banned and content communication 13 CNM Social Media Module – Giorgos Cheliotis (
  14. 14. Detailed view of group attachment Source: Ren et al, 2007 design levers* * Members may in time develop more bond-based or identity-based attachment, depending on the types of interactions, policies and roles in the community 14 CNM Social Media Module – Giorgos Cheliotis (
  15. 15. More thoughts on design… (1 of 2) What kind of community are you trying to build and how can you build identity-based and bond-based attachment? Should you allow for off-topic discussions? How much information should users be encouraged to disclose about themselves? How large do you want the community to become (remember, larger is not always better, but providing for the formation of subgroups can help make it more manageable) Think about online Which reinforcers would be more suitable for this platforms you know and community? Consider applicability and appeal to users. why some people make contributions. How would How can you make contribution easier and thus more you increase their appealing? Some users may want to contribute in small ways motivation to contribute? while others may seek greater challenges. 15 CNM Social Media Module – Giorgos Cheliotis (
  16. 16. More thoughts on design… (2 of 2) Is social science a useful source of inspiration and guidance for the design of online platforms? YES! Can this make design an exact science with provably desirable outcomes? NO (this is anyway not the intent of most of social science, and even if it were, translating general findings into design guidelines is not straightforward) What makes this so difficult? It is mainly because any design intervention can have multiple effects, which can cancel each other out and even undermine the intentions of the designer Social science helps us understand how people Is design then doomed to be equal parts art and ‘engineering’ operate in social settings. rather than science? PROBABLY This is valuable for the analysis and design of social Does this mean that the best approach is to learn by trial-and- media, but there are no error? NO (insights from social science can be useful guides, surefire, one-size-fits-all and help us understand cause and effect) recipes for success 16 CNM Social Media Module – Giorgos Cheliotis (
  17. 17. Credits and licensing  Front page photo by celinecelines (license: CC BY-NC-ND)  Team with laptops photo by friendly_terrorist (license: CC BY-NC-ND)  Music instruments photo by brad montgomery (license: CC BY)  Football photo by left-hand (license: CC BY)  Flash mob pillow fight photo by mattw1s0n (license: CC BY)  Phone receiver photo by bondidwhat (license: CC BY-NC-ND) Original content in this presentation is licensed under the Creative Commons Singapore Attribution 3.0 license unless stated otherwise (see above) 17 CNM Social Media Module – Giorgos Cheliotis (