Lifestream, Liked on YouTube: The Online Community-A New Paradigm: Mark Wills at TEDxSanLuisObispo

via YouTube

While I don’t agree with every point Mark Wills raises, it is interesting to hear his perspectives on community, and especially on the role of moderation within community.

The parts of Wills TED talk that I find dubious include:

  • he makes generational distinctions about learning to ‘be’ in online communities which I don’t think hold up to examination. His position is suggestive of a ‘digital natives’ (Prensky, 2001) construct, which ignores the fact that experience with technology isn’t generalizable by age and further, seems to equate ‘being’ with ‘doing’ (i.e. it suggests that because young people are all supposedly immersed in the world of technology through daily use, it is who they are – a negation of the complexities of identity).
  • Wills suggests that online communities flatten hierarchies to the extent that gender, geographic boundaries, age and ethnicity ‘don’t exist anymore’. For me, his assertion is too absolute: #Gamergate is evidence enough that this simply isn’t true.

However, other aspects of Wills’ talk were in accordance with my own experience and/or my reading:

  • the need to encourage longevity in user participation – this aligns with Walther’s 1997 assertion about the role of ‘anticipated future interaction’ in modifying participant behaviours (Kozinets, 2010, pp. 23-24);
  • Will’ s assertions about the need to reinforce cultural norms or shared values, as well as the role of participant voting as a way to empower (askers) and give status (to those that have responded to user/asker questions) supports Kozinets’ model developmental progression of participation in online communities:
Kozinets, 2010, p. 28

Finally, I found the idea of people being able to use their credibility within an online technology help community externally, for example, when applying for jobs, interesting. In this sense, the platform can give users (those who answer questions) something genuinely valuable in exchange for their volunteer digital labour. Is it enough, though? Or is it insignificant in comparison to what they contribute (which drives the profits of the host)?