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Sunday, February 13, 2011

Assignment #3: Motivation & Participation or That's Cool and All But I really Don't Care Enough to Make the Effort to Comment

Virtual Community Attraction: Why People Hang Out Online
explains that people “hang out” on line for four reasons: 1) Information; 2) Social Support; 3); Friendship and 4) Recreation. I agree with this statement. In fact, I can give examples from my own experiences with SNS that fit into those categories.

1. I hang out at many places for Information (CNN, NPR, Hawaii News Now);
2. For Social Support (The Happiness Project , The People’s Therapist);
3. For Friendship (Facebook)
4. For Recreation (I hang out at lots of these places, but my favorites are Above The Law, NPR books, and Copporette).

The authors, referencing two earlier articles (Furlong, 1989; S. G. Jones, 1995; Wellman et al., 1996), state that, “The most frequently cited reason [for joining a virtual community] in the literature is to access information.” I agree. That is why I chose to join THR. I am currently completing at externship at a law firm, working under an attorney specializing in Intellectual Property and Entertainment Law. I want to learn as much as I can about the current cases, research and litigation trends in the field.

In the article, Using Social Psychology to Motivate Contributions to Online Communities the authors give a thorough explanation of studies and experiments using social psychology theories to explain and manipulate contributions to online communities. The authors posit that people will not contribute if they feel like their “contributions have little likelihood of influencing the group.” I agree with this, somewhat. I see the point, but I am not sure most participants really care about “influencing the group.” That would put the conversation in the area of debate or persuasive conversation. Perhaps for some groups like political communities , or legal communities this may be true. In fact, as I will explain later, most of the comments in the community I followed were of this nature. THR, Esq. focuses on issues in Entertainment Law. But I think the majority of people on many mainstream sites are not there to debate or persuade.

The authors state that people will contribute to the online conversations if: 1)they feel like they are unique and their comments are unique and not redundant; 2)there is a goal; 3) there is a perceived benefit (personal or group, direct or indirect) or 4) they feel that they are helping a group they value.

Why We Twitter: Understanding Microblogging Usage and Communities defines and explains microblogging and specifically Twitter. The authors state, “Such networks were found to have a high degree correlation and reciprocity, indicating close mutual acquaintances among users.” I do not agree with this statement, (see my previous blog entry about my experiences with Twitter). I did not experience any reciprocity even with my “close mutual aquaintances.” However, I do agree with the following statement, “New Twitter users often initially join the network on invitation from friends. Further, new friends are added to the network by browsing through user profiles and adding other known acquaintances.” I joined Twitter after my husband joined and I collected my first followers and people I follow from searching through my hubby’s followers. I also agree with “Most posts on Twitter talk about daily routine or what people are currently doing. This is the largest and most common user of Twitter.” This is mostly how I use Twitter, and I find that I read my friends tweets just to see what they are up to today.

Finally I want to discuss Examining Social Media Usage: Technology Clusters and Social Network Site Membership
in relation the to the second part of this assignment.

The online community I observed was
THR, Esq. The Intersection of Hollywood and Law.

I figure, for this one I would multitask a bit. When I read THR, Esq. I usually say to myself, “I gotta spend some time here looking around.” THR, Esq. is a part of The Hollywood Reporter; it focuses on the legal aspects of the entertainment business. I wanted to look around and see what’s going on in the entertainment law community outside of Hawaii. So I am glad this assignment came up.

As far as modes of participation go, anyone can comment, and anyone can comment on other’s comments. According the Schrock article this a “Many to Many” technology cluster. In addition to definitions and explanations of microblogging and microbolgging terms, this article also discusses gender difference and phychological factors of SNS use and technology clusters.

In THR, Esq. participants can be anonymous or identified, and their identification can be verified and not verified.

As I read through the first posts I noticed there are no comments. Maybe there are no comments because the posts are relatively new. But the more I read I realize that most of the posts have no comments. And the ones that do get commented on usually only have a few comments. I looked at over 55 posts. Here is a list of the only posts that got more than 3 comments:

Post subject Number – types of comments
Piracy lawsuit 4 - debating both sides of issue
Michael Moore lawsuit Over 50 – people love or hate with this guy
CBS lawsuit (family ties song) 6 - copyright/fair use debate
75 million dollar Kardashian lawsuit 17 – wow people are not shy about how they feel about theKardashian- vitriolic, name calling
Live nation rolling stones suit 6 – people love the stones
Suits against people who “share” movies 5 – debate on the merits of suing 100,000 people
“King’s speech” action 9 – treatment of animals in film
“Lie To Me” stolen idea lawsuit 6 - whining about stolen ideas—side note the copyright act protects the unique expression of the ideas, not the ideas themselves!
"Monster-In-Law" law suit 13 – debates about how the suit turned out
Former Golden Globes Publicist Sues Hollywood Foreign Press Assn. Claiming 'Payola’ 10 - merits of Golden Globes “wins”
Legal fight over the song from “The Fighter 14 – discussion about sampling

I think participation is only somewhat encouraged. At the end the each post there is a large, easy to use comment box. And there are reply buttons on the comments to make it easy to comment on a comment.

There is not a lot of participation, perhaps because as described in the article Why We Twitter, this wasn’t a community of “mutual aquantences” as expained in the article. Why We Twitter also discusses the growth of microblogging, and the logistics and usage of microblogging sites (like Twitter). For instance, most tweets are "daily chatter" or just declarations of what folks are doing throughout their day. THR is less daily chatter and more news and information for entertainment and IP lawyers.

Not surprisingly the Kardashian post drew a lot of comments. People love to hate those girls, but that is the subject for another paper, perhaps one exploring the female negative objectification issues - that alone is at least worth 10 pages. And surprisingly, Michael Moore still makes news. People love to hate him too. But for different reasons than the Kardashians I reckon.


  1. Mernie,
    Do you think that people participated less in the OC you chose than many others because it is an about the law and people may have needed a bit more background/ knowledge to make a worthy comment? I wonder if OCs that require more specialized knowledge get fewer contributions – fewer than say BabyCenter, where all parents have some sort of “specialized knowledge” (or at least personal experience) on the subject. Normally this doesn’t seem to hold people back – people love to comment on things they have no idea about – but maybe in this case it is intimidating for people. Also it’s interesting how the Kardashians & Michael Moore cases elicited the most comments. Maybe users who also watch E-Hollywood felt more knowledgeable about these people. :P

  2. Hi Chris,
    That is a good point about specialized knowledge. That probably does have some part in the lack of comments. But I think another reason maybe that most attorneys who are reading these posts may not have the time, inclination, interest, or energy to respond.

    I started reading THR, Esq. after my entertainment law professor said that all IP entertainment lawyers should check on what's going on in Hollywood regularly, and recommended we bookmark this site. I have it on my RSS feed and only look if something catches my eye. But I have never commented.

  3. I also wondered about the lack of comments on this site. Since some of the posts discuss lawsuits, I can't help but to wonder if lurkers on this site are presumably familiar with the permanancy of postings and are purposefully deciding against publically sharing their opinions. Could it be that lurkers are pleading the fifth?

  4. I like that---pleading the fifth....makes sense, after all the internet is forever.

  5. I wanted to comment on your statement "I think the majority of people on many mainstream sites are not there to debate or persuade." I feel like this is mostly true, but I have been seeing a lot of debating lately.

    When I checked out Shelfari, I found that some of the most commented on posts were the controversial ones. People who posted a negative review to a very popular book, or brought up the "devil's advocate" point of view were almost always responded to more than the mainstream posts. Other users would try to tell the person why they were wrong about the book, what its good qualities were, and (usually) how stupid they were. It often resulted in a back-and-forth debate about something obviously subjective.

    I've also been seeing a lot of persuasive arguments on Facebook lately. I'm from Wisconsin, and they are going through some major controversies right now. My wall has exploded with activity - people on both sides of the issue arguing their opinions. I have taken part in this myself and I have seen it bring together people who rarely interact.

    All of this makes me feel like people don't go to most SNSs specifically to argue, but when debatable and controversial points come up they are a big motivator. Everyone has an opinion and wants to get it out, just like you found with Michael Moore and the Kardashians.

  6. Hi mernie, I like how you make your case relevant to your professional background. But I just wondered how many people will participate for getting information? In my case, I might sign up for a online community if I want to get access to some of its information, but I barely will participate, like making comments. However, if there are some "motivate mechanisms", I will contribute too, and I also agree with the point that “contributions have little likelihood of influencing the group.”

  7. Very interesting, an online community where a strong tendency for part of the audience would be not to say anything. Since the site is under the umbrella of the Hollywood Reporter, my guess is that the target is more fans than attorneys, so in few comments that do exist, you might expect to see the extremes of worship and haterade. One mode of participation you didn't directly mention was the ability to tweet stories, but I think you're right in questioning whether this is an online community per se, there seems to be little motivation for continued contributions, especially with so many posters both anonymous and not verified.

  8. I really ought to read this site more, I do like keeping up with pop culture. The Kardashian sisters really seem to be the most hated female figures in America right now. It's funny because at the time they had "blown up" in America, I was living overseas and disconnected from a lot of things that I would have exposed me to them: magazines, newspapers, TV, so they were pretty much innocuous to me. I guess to tie it back to the course topic, if I had been reading this site all along while overseas, I would have been better informed about them.

  9. I believe there are various ways to use Twitter, some of which are not just like the tweeting of birds in the morning. For instance the article I posted on my blog about twitter was an Onion response to the use of twitter in the Iran protests in 2009. I also read that twitter was used to organize and spread the word about the recent happenings in Egypt.
    That said, I still don't tweet and I have a bad impression about it. Most of what I have heard about twitter is the inane use of it. Like celebrities tweeting about the number of cheerios in their morning breakfast. In another case, recently in Korea an actor tweeted an apology to his fans while he was being arrested for possession of drugs. I guess an instant apology is nice, but it seems weird to me.