Socio-technical gaps and social capital formation in Online Collaborative Consumption communities

Gheitasy, Ali (2017) Socio-technical gaps and social capital formation in Online Collaborative Consumption communities. Doctoral thesis, University of West London.

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Abstract

Information Communication Technologies (ICTs) are transforming social activities and interactions which are naturally varied and dynamic. In this process, ‘gaps’ develop between the technologies and emerging social requirements. Given that the main challenge for Computer Supported Cooperative Work (CSCW) is to identify and ameliorate these socio-technical gaps, it is essential to understand how individuals work and collaborate in groups, societies, and communities.

The main question addressed in this study regards the identification of these gaps in the social activities of Online Collaborative Consumption (OCC). The intention is to improve user experience and design requirements to support OCC at the socio-technical design level. OCC facilitates sharing, swapping, trading, or renting products, services, and resources, via the computer-mediated interactions. Etsy, an online marketplace and community for handmade and craft goods, is the focus of this study as a community in which OCC takes place.

The evaluation of online communities by using an ethnographic approach is an equally important question which this study investigates. Due to a lack of standard methods, a new combined methodological approach is proposed in this research (Predictive ethnography) and it was used in evaluation of collaborative communities to investigate the socio-technical gaps. In this approach, online ethnography complemented predictive evaluation with the aid of heuristics including sociability, usability, and user experience (UX) items. These heuristics were drawn from previous literature as the success factors for the online communities. The textual interactions from discussions of the forum and teams on Etsy that were related to these heuristics were collected and coded. Over 1000 posts from 178 threads were collected. Their frequencies were measured to demonstrate their importance, and further ethnography helped the researcher in qualitative analysis and meaning making of the textual interactions.

The subsidiary question this research aims to answer is how social capital is developed in the OCC communities. Social capital is utilised as a tool to enhance the understanding of the socio-technical requirements of OCC communities and to improve the process of social capital generation. The same above-mentioned methodological approach (Predictive ethnography) was applied with the heuristics replaced by social capital measures. Over 9500 posts collected from 97 threads from the textual discussions of different Etsy teams. This study investigates the social capital formation in different types of teams such as topic-based ones that are created based on the common interest topics, and location-based ones that are created based on the shared locations of the members. In the topic-based teams, a significant amount of knowledge sharing and intellectual capital was observed. In location-based teams, most interactions were within social interactions and relational capital.

The new method proposed in this research has shown its effectiveness in gaining insight from the natural discussions of the members. In total, 33 socio-technical gaps were identified and presented with possible recommendations. The most significant gaps concerned: Trust creation features; relevant rules of behaviour; clear displayed policies; and social presence tools.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Subjects: Computing > Innovation and user experience > Computing interaction design
Computing > Innovation and user experience
Computing > Innovation and user experience > Usability
Computing
Depositing User: David Phillips
Date Deposited: 31 Aug 2017 13:21
Last Modified: 31 Aug 2017 13:21
URI: http://repository.uwl.ac.uk/id/eprint/3835

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