ER&L 2015 – Supporting Online Creative Collaboration: Tools and Social Context

#erl15 Monday
Amy Bruckman speaking at ER&L

Speaker: Amy Bruckman

If we had created a traditional organization and said we wanted to have video that would have anything anyone would want to learn about, could we have created something as vast and comprehensive as YouTube?

Could we have predicted open source software? WordPress is 62% of content management market share, Apache hosts 58% of web servers, and Wikipedia is the 6th most popular website in the world.

How do we get together and create something? How do you do it when you don’t know what the end product is supposed to do?

Newgrounds is a site where groups of people create animations and share them. Bruckman looks at how these folks collaborate. They found that the narrative structure of “continuation” shaped the process, requiring one person to complete their portion before the next could start on it, causing bottlenecks and conflicts of interest. Narrative structures can work in parallel, and collection structures have more guidelines for what is and is not included.

Does the final product need all contributions or can it be filtered? Is the product finished or is it iterative? How much coordination is required? In many projects, a strong central leader is required to move forward, and can be a bottleneck if they drop the ball.

To address all of this, Bruckman’s group developed a suite of tools called Pipeline. This replaced the burden of the leader, allowing individuals to claim tasks and automatically attribute credits at the end of the project. They created more of a wiki-like structure. Collaboration works better when we can see each other working and know that we can see each other working. Distributed leadership views leadership as a set of behaviors, not roles.

Pipeline allows groups that are initially centralized in leadership styles to decentralize, and for decentralized leadership to get more organized. It has been used for Newgrounds projects and GISHWHES teams.

There will never be a tool that will solve all problems. Better to design something that fits into an ecology of tool use for task management, communication, collaboration, etc.

Do users understand “fair use” and how does this impact their remix behaviors? Bruckman interviewed 33 content creators, analyzed forum postings about copyright, the content of remix sites, and surveyed the users of those sites.

No one read the Terms of Service agreements. A reading level analysis required college sophomore level reading, with some behind postgraduate level (particularly audio sites). Some sites TOS indicate you are giving them exclusive and irrevocable rights to the content you post there. Many people would behave differently online if they understood that.

People are not sharing content online because they are afraid they will get in trouble or that someone will reuse their content in ways they did not intend. Site designers could remedy some of these problems if they scaffolded the information to help folks understand through the design of the sites.

We are just at the beginning. People will do more amazing things together, if we give them good tools and social support. Research on developing these tools is important.