1.iv Social Media Communities, Content, and Collaboration

*Berry, David M. 2012. “The Social Epistemologies of Software.” Social Epistemology: A Journal of Knowledge, Culture and Policy 26 (3–4): 379– 98.   doi:10.1080/02691728.2012.727191.

Berry analyzes how code and software increasingly develop, influence, and depend on social epistemology or social knowledge creation. He discusses the highly mediated “computational ecologies” (379) that individuals and nonhuman actors inhabit, and argues that we need to become more aware of the role these computational ecologies play in daily social knowledge production. Berry analyzes two case studies to support his argument: the existence of web bugs or user activity trackers, and the development of lifestreams, real-time streams, and the quantified self. For Berry, the increasing embrace of and compliance with potentially insidious data collecting via the Internet and social media needs to be addressed.

Bolter, Jay David. 2007. “Digital Media and Art: Always Already Complicit?” Criticism 49 (1): 107–18. doi:10.1353/crt.2008.0013.

Bolter examines the contemporary theoretical conversation surrounding new media, and identifies a blind spot with regard to social media and computing. He argues that although many contemporary scholars and artists study, discuss, or create digital media, none of them takes into account the cultural significance of social media and computing. Bolter explicitly focuses his examination on the work of Lisa Gitelman, Marie-Laure Ryan, and Johanna Drucker, but also engages with other theorists, including N. Katherine Hayles and Lev Manovich. For Bolter, the transgressive identity and group formation that characterize social media and computing enact the historical goal of the avant garde: to disrupt the boundaries between art, creation, and everyday life.

Boot, Peter. 2012. “Literary Evaluation in Online Communities of Writers and Readers.” Scholarly and Research Communication 3 (2): http://src-online.ca/index.php/src/article/view/77/90.

Boot analyzes the Dutch website Verhalensite (“story site,” www.verhalensite.com) in order to understand the mechanics of rating and reputation in online writing communities. He demonstrates that a literary work is rated in online environments against a large number of other works, noting that the literary evaluation itself takes place in public (online). In addition, user communication takes place on the same site, where one has access to the literary works and their evaluations. To conduct his analysis, Boot refers to quid pro quo (reciprocal commenting), comment words, and network analysis. He concludes that the process of online literary evaluation varies from that of print literature: formalized literary institutions are mostly absent from online communities, whereas social media sites give more power to the reader in determining the reputation of a work. Boot adds that online writing communities share similarities with other online communities, and calls for a comparison of the mechanisms of reputation.

Burdick, Anne, Johanna Drucker, Peter Lunenfeld, Todd Presner, and Jeffrey Schnapp. 2012. “The Social Life of the Digital Humanities.” In Digital_Humanities, 73–98. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Burdick et al. focus on the social aspects and impacts of digital humanities. The authors argue that the digital humanities, by nature, encompass academic and social spaces that discuss issues beyond technology alone. Key issues include open access, open source publications, the emergence of participatory Web and social media technologies, collaborative authorship, crowdsourcing, knowledge creation, influence, authorization, and dissemination. Burdick et al. also consider the role of digital humanities in public spaces, beyond the siloed academy. The authors address these expansive issues through an oscillating approach of explanation and questioning. While the diversity of the topics in this chapter is substantial, the authors knit the arguments together under the broad theme of social engagement.

Cao, Qilin, Yong Lu, Dayong Dong, Zongming Tang, and Yongqiang Li. 2013. “The Roles of Bridging and Bonding in Social Media Communities.” Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology 64 (8): 1671–81. doi:10.1002/asi.22866.

Cao, Lu, Dong, Tang, and Li develop a theoretical model investigating the contribution of bonding (social networks among homogeneous groups) and bridging (social networks among heterogeneous groups) to the individual and collective well-being of virtual communities, through information exchange. They argue that bridging and bonding have positive implications on information quality but not quantity, also noting that information quality is more critical than information quantity after a disaster. They situate their work within the social capital theory, referring to Nan Lin (“Social Networks and Status Attainment,” 1999), Pierre Bourdieu and Loïc J.D. Wacquant (An Invitation to Reflexive Sociology, 1992), and Mamata Bhandar, Shan-Ling Pan, and Bernard C.Y. Tan (“Towards Understanding the Roles of Social Capital in Knowledge Integration: A Case Study of a Collaborative Information Systems Project,” 2007). The authors conclude that bonding has an impact on bridging, and that both have a positive impact on information quality.

Clement, Tanya. 2011. “Knowledge Representation and Digital Scholarly Editions in Theory and Practice.” Journal of the Text Encoding Initiative 1: n.p. doi:10.4000/jtei.203.

Clement reflects on scholarly digital editions as sites of textual performance, wherein the editor lays down and privileges various narrative threads for the reader to pick up and interpret. She underscores this theoretical discussion with examples from her own work with the digital edition In Transition: Selected Poems by the Baroness Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven, as well as TEI and XML encoding and the Versioning Machine. Clement details how editorial decisions shape the social experience of an edition. By applying John Bryant’s theory of the fluid text to her own editorial practice, she focuses on concepts of various textual performances and meaning-making events. Notably, Clement also explores the idea of the social text network. She concludes that the concept of the network is not new to digital editions; nevertheless, conceiving of a digital edition as a network of various players, temporal spaces, and instantiations promotes fruitful scholarly exploration.

Cohen, Daniel J. 2008. “Creating Scholarly Tools and Resources for the Digital Ecosystem: Building Connections in the Zotero Project.” First Monday 13 (8): n.p. doi:10.5210/fm.v13i8.2233.

Cohen details how the Zotero project exemplifies both a Web 2.0 and a traditional scholarly ethos. He conceptualizes Zotero as a node in an interconnected digital ecosystem that builds bridges instead of hoarding information. Zotero is a widely used, open source, community-based bibliography tool. It exists on top of the browser as an extension, has maintained an API since its inception, and boasts comprehensive user features. As an easy-touse collaborative tool, Zotero acts as both an effective scholarly resource and a facilitator of social knowledge creation.

Flanders, Julia. 2009. “The Productive Unease of 21st-Century Digital Scholarship.” Digital Humanities Quarterly 3 (3): n.p. http://www. digitalhumanities.org/dhq/vol/3/3/000055/000055.html.

Flanders discusses the role of the digital humanities in relation to the more conventional humanities, and characterizes the digital humanities as possessing a sort of “productive unease”: anxiety concerning medium, institutional structures of scholarly communication, and representation. This anxiety is productive insofar as it brings into clearer focus previously unremarked upon biases in the traditional humanities. Moreover, digital tools and practices present more and different challenges. Of note, Flanders recognizes social software and media as tackling some of these anxiety-provoking issues, and acknowledges digital humanities projects that also strive in the same direction.

*Hart, Jennefer, Charlene Ridley, Faisal Taher, Corina Sas, and Alan J. Dix. 2008. “Exploring the Facebook Experience: A New Approach to Usability.” In Proceedings of the 5th Nordic Conference on HumanComputer Interaction (NordiCHI08), 471–74. New York: ACM.

In the framework of user experience design, Hart, Ridley, Sas, Taher, and Dix examine a selection of users’ reactions to the popular social networking website Facebook. The authors put forth the idea that previous standards of evaluating digital environments need to be reimagined for our current technological moment to privilege user experience. Their findings indicate an overall positive reaction to Facebook despite the site’s meeting only two out of the ten traditional usability guidelines. The authors call for a more holistic approach to design that pays heed to the pleasurable social knowledge creation experience of many individuals as they participate on social networking sites such as Facebook.

Hart, William, and Terry Marsh. 2014. “Social Media Research Foundation.” In Encyclopedia of Social Media and Politics, edited by Kerric Harvey, 3:1173–74. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Hart and Marsh introduce the Social Media Research Foundation, with a focus on its structure and objectives: understanding the many aspects of social media. They suggest that the foundation’s interdisciplinary research and development of social media tools and data sets holds significant implications for fields such as national politics and international relations. The authors claim that NodeXL (one of the foundation’s open tools for analyzing social media), and the data one can generate using it, can offer researchers an indepth view of social media users and their followers.

Hendry, David G., J. R. Jenkins, and Joseph F. McCarthy. 2006. “Collaborative Bibliography.” Information Processing & Management 42 (3):  805–25. doi:10.1016/j.ipm.2005.05.007.

Hendry, Jenkins, and McCarthy provide an overview of the type of bibliographies published on the web today, and extend the traditional view to encompass participatory practices. By providing a conceptual model for the infrastructure of these practices, the authors demonstrate the process of producing and supporting these collections, both on a theoretical level and through a case study. The ideal result of these participatory policies would involve an environment with collaborative decision-making, a visible workflow and collective shaping of it, and audience discussions. However, they conclude that the realization of this model would require a great investment in systems development, and is not yet sustainable.

Inversini, Alessandro, Rogan Sage, Nigel Williams, and Dimitrios Buhalis. 2015. “The Social Impact of Events in Social Media Conversation.” In Information and Communication Technologies in Tourism 2015, edited by Iis Tussyadiah and Alessandro Inversini, 283–94. Lugano, Switzerland: Springer International Publishing.

Inversini, Sage, Williams, and Buhalis discuss how the growth of social media allows for analysis of real time discussions that happen on online platforms. The authors study the impact of real time discussions on the discourse of a given event. Their research objectives are to understand the extent to which social media has a propensity to facilitate socially motivated discussion, and to establish a correlation between the platform users’ centrality in the network and their effect on such discussions. To do that, the authors investigate socially motivated discussions taking place on Twitter about the Glastonbury Music Festival (UK). Inversini et al. conclude that it is important to study a community of interests on social media platforms, since socially motivated discussion generates more impact on the event in question. They note the necessity of examining online narratives of events in order to understand engagement levels with social causes.

Kittur, Aniket, and Robert E. Kraut. 2008. “Harnessing the Wisdom of the Crowds in Wikipedia: Quality Through Coordination.” In Proceedings of the 2008 ACM Conference on Computer Supported Cooperative Work (CSCW 08), 37–46. New York: ACM.

Kittur and Kraut study the correlation between the number of editors on a Wikipedia page and the quality of that page’s content. Significantly, they argue that an increased number of editors on a given page will prove productive only if some sort of coordination apparatus is in place. Articles are even more successful, content-wise, if a small group of experts manages the majority of the work. This argument runs counter to the crowdsourcing ethos of Wikipedia, which dictates that, generally, the more editors at work, the better the quality of the article. The authors argue, however, that a smaller group of editors working under a semi-authoritative organizational system facilitates peer-to-peer communication—a benefit that is often lost when large groups of uncoordinated individuals are involved.

Kirschenbaum, Matthew. 2012. “Digital Humanities As/Is a Tactical Term.” In Debates in the Digital Humanities, edited by Matthew K. Gold, 415–28. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. http://dhdebates.gc.cuny.edu/debates/text/48.

For Kirschenbaum, digital humanities should be considered as a tactical term because of its notable role as a means instead of simply as an end. He argues that social media environments and interactions highlight this tactical nature. For instance, social networks and blogs (particularly Twitter) offer a space for digital humanists to engage in alternative professional interaction and dialogue. Kirschenbaum indicates, however, that Twitter’s significance exceeds the sheer presence of digital humanist users; the digital humanities community is in fact established through social media’s tendency to build reputations and status, metrically indicate influence, and aggregate information and like-minded individuals. Thus, while accepted scholarly channels and institutions continue to represent the digital humanities in a more traditional sense, the community’s tactical, online existence promotes constant change and alternative forms of professional clout.

Kjellberg, Sara. 2010. “I am  a  Blogging  Researcher:  Motivations for Blogging in a Scholarly Context.” First Monday 15 (8): n.p. doi:10.5210/fm.v15i8.2962.

Kjellberg explores the incentives behind blogging in an academic context. To do so, she focuses on twelve researchers’ activities, as well as the specific functionalities of the blogging environment. According to the researchers, the social function of communication and knowledge dissemination inherent in blogging results in a feeling of connectedness. Kjellberg identifies some of the main blogging functionalities as expressing opinions, keeping up-todate, and disseminating research. Blogging does not necessarily provide researchers with direct career advantages, but persists nonetheless due to an interest in developing the practice, as well as in the possibility of reaching multiple audiences.

Liu, Alan. 2011. “Friending the Past: The Sense of History and Social Computing.” New Literary History: A Journal of Theory and Interpretation 42 (1): 1–30. doi:10.1353/nlh.2011.0004.

Liu identifies media-induced sociality in oral, written, and digital culture. He proceeds to analyze Web 2.0 and social computing practices, and concludes that Web 2.0 lacks a sense of history, despite its intricately interconnected state. Liu attributes this state to two concurrent historical shifts: a social move from one-to-many to many-to-many, and a temporal shift from straightforward conceptions of time into the contemporary conception of instantaneous and simultaneous temporality. Reflexively, Liu argues that conceiving of time in this new instantaneous/simultaneous framework may ideologically proprietize the Internet and allow for ownership of social practices by organizations such as Facebook, Twitter, and Google. As such, Liu opts for a more traditional sense of temporality and history characterized by narratological linear time. He cites the social network system of his Research-oriented Social Environment (RoSE) project as a platform that integrates history with Web 2.0 infrastructure and allowances.

—.“From  Reading  to  Social  Computing.”  In  Literary Studies in the Digital Age: An Evolving Anthology, edited by Kenneth Price and Raymond G. Siemens, n.p. New York: MLA Commons. https://dlsanthology.commons.mla.org/from-reading-to-socialcomputing/.

Liu presents an impressive short history of both social computing and literary theory. He develops the argument that literary scholars must take social computing seriously, as it is the current mode of cultural and personal expression. Liu suggests that literary scholars engage with social computing through two distinct methodologies: those of the social sciences and of the digital humanities. As he argues, social computing must be considered not only as an object of literary study, but as a practice of literary study.

Manovich, Lev. 2012. “Trending: The Promises and the Challenges of Big Social Data.” In Debates in the Digital Humanities, edited by Matthew Gold, 460–75. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. http://dhdebates.gc.cuny.edu/debates/text/15.

Manovich elaborates on the possibilities and limitations of performing humanities research with Big Data. He asserts that although Big Data can be incredibly instructive and useful for humanities work, certain significant roadblocks impede this project. These roadblocks include the fact that only social media companies have access to relevant Big Data; user-generated content is not necessarily authentic, objective, or representative; certain analysis of Big Data requires a level of computer science expertise that humanities researchers do not typically possess; and Big Data is not synonymous with “deep data,” the type of data procured through intense, long-term study of subjects. Nevertheless, Manovich looks forward to a future where humanists can overcome these boundaries and integrate Big Data with their research aspirations and projects.


Mrva-Montoya, Agata. 2012. “Social Media: New Editing Tools or Weapons of Mass Distraction?” Journal of Electronic Publishing 15 (1): 1–24. doi:10.3998/3336451.0015.103.

Mrva-Montoya discusses the effect and usages of social media in the editorial profession. She argues that, when used appropriately, social media have a positive impact on editors, enabling them to sustain professional relationships, garner information and responses quickly and easily, and build their reputation and status. In contrast, social media have a negative impact on editors when usage becomes overly time consuming, distracting, revealing, or overbearing. By harnessing the productive effects of social media, editorial professionals can proactively manage their careers and success.

Pfister, Damien Smith. 2011. “Networked Expertise in the Era of Manyto-Many Communication: On Wikipedia and Invention.” Social Epistemology: A Journal of Knowledge, Culture and Policy 25 (3): 217–31. doi:10.1080/02691728.2011.578306.

Pfister argues that Wikipedia is a prime example and facilitator of contemporary many-to-many communication structures and the resultant changing nature of knowledge production. He advocates for many-to-many communication because it disrupts traditional knowledge practices that depend on specialized experts to disseminate knowledge through carefully regulated channels and institutions. Furthermore, social knowledge creation spaces like Wikipedia induce productive epistemic turbulence through multivocal authorship, arguments, and collaboration. Pfister champions this networked or participatory expertise as a more democratic, representative, and therefore less hierarchical model of communication.

Rosenzweig, Roy. 2006. “Can History Be Open Source? Wikipedia and the Future of the Past.” Journal of American History 93 (1): 117–46.

Rosenzweig envisions a model for history scholarship based on the open access, multi-author Wikipedia framework. He concedes that Wikipedia represents an exciting—and perhaps even more ethical—structure of sharing and creating knowledge. Although Rosenzweig thoroughly and comprehensively acknowledges all of the criticisms of Wikipedia from an academic standpoint, he nonetheless proposes that history scholars become more open to incorporating Wikipedia in their scholarly practice. Rosenzweig heralds the many benefits of wiki-based learning and projects for both research and teaching purposes.

Siemens, Raymond G., Meagan Timney, Cara Leitch, Corina Koolen, and Alex Garnett, with the ETCL, INKE, and PKP Research Groups. 2012. “Toward Modeling the Social Edition: An Approach to Understanding the Electronic Scholarly Edition in the Context of New and Emerging Social Media.” Digital Scholarship in the Humanities (formerly Literary and Linguistic Computing) 27 (4): 445–61. doi:10.1093/llc/fqs013.

Siemens, Timney, Leitch, Koolen, Garnett, et al. present a vision of an emerging manifestation of the scholarly digital edition: the social edition. The authors ruminate on both the potential and already-realized intersections between scholarly digital editing and social media. For Siemens et al., many scholarly digital editions do not readily employ the collaborative electronic tools available for use in a scholarly context. The authors seek to remediate this lack of engagement, especially concerning opportunities to integrate collaborative annotation, user-derived content, folksonomy tagging, community bibliography, and text analysis capabilities within a digital edition. Furthermore, Siemens et al. envision the conceptual role of the editor—traditionally a single authoritative individual—as a reflection of facilitation rather than of didactic authority. A social edition predicated on these shifts and amendments would allow for increased social knowledge creation by a community of readers and scholars, academics and citizens alike.

Wasik, Bill. 2009. And Then There’s This: How Stories Live and Die in Viral Culture. New York: Viking.

Wasik explores what is at stake with viral culture and social networking, and celebrates the community-generated culture the Internet provokes. He argues that the proliferation of shortlived sensations common to the Internet has altered the way contemporary society creates knowledge and culture. Wasik details his experiences as creator of the first flash mob in Manhattan in 2003. He also explores various memes or “nanostories”—brief moments of celebrity facilitated by digital culture. Wasik concludes by urging readers to process information responsibly in order to resist getting lost spiritually or creatively in the deluge of temporally minute gasps of popular culture.