Sociology

In: Social Issues

Submitted By potitang
Words 8060
Pages 33
Proceedings of the 42nd Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences - 2009

A Conceptual and Operational Definition of
‘Social Role’ in Online Community
Eric Gleave
University of Washington
egleave@u.washington.edu

Howard T. Welser
Ohio University
welser@ohio.edu

Abstract
Both online and off, people frequently perform
particular social roles. These roles organize behavior
and give structure to positions in local networks. As
more of social life becomes embedded in online
systems, the concept of social role becomes
increasingly valuable as a tool for simplifying patterns
of action, recognizing distinct user types, and
cultivating and managing communities. This paper
standardizes the usage of the term ‘social role’ in
online community as a combination of social
psychological, social structural, and behavioral
attributes. Beyond the conceptual definition, we
describe measurement and analysis strategies for
identifying social roles in online community. We
demonstrate this process in two domains, Usenet and
Wikipedia, identifying key social roles in each domain.
We conclude with directions for future research, with a
particular focus on the analysis of communities as role
ecologies.

1. INTRODUCTION
Social life has moved online. From discussion
boards, to wikis, to social networking sites, people do
things together through digital communication. Those
interactions leave behind complex records of who did
what, when, under what context, and with whom. In
other words, the interaction order [16] is now
electrified and self-documenting. This fact is
reverberating across the social, communication,
information, and computer sciences and requires the
development of new methods and increased
interdisciplinary collaboration [39]. This collaboration
requires researchers to use the comparative advantages
of many disciplines in...