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Purdue University, Spring 2016 COM 63200 Theories of On-line Interaction and Facilitation



Sorin A. Matei aka Dr. M

Office Hours: WED 11-13. Please email in advance to make an appointment.

BRNG 2132

Voicemail: 323 638 7464

Email: smatei "at" purdue "point" edu



As more and more traditional institutions and groups move their transactions on-line, the need to understand the advantages and disadvantages inherent in new media has increased. The present course discusses the social, organizational, and design implications of on-line social interaction. It also examines traditional and newer social theory related to organizational and social interaction in the context of on-line groups. At the same time, the students will be exposed to the main theoretical and practical literature related to community design in an on-line context.

Note: The class is designed to adapt itself to the needs of the unique collection of individuals that are its members. Some readings and details might change over the course of the semester to answer these needs. If you print a copy of this syllabus make sure that you check the online version periodically.


The class objectives are:

  • Acquisition of theoretical knowledge necessary to critically understand on-line interaction and sociability issues
  • Familiarization with and use of best practices related to building strong, highly interactive on-line environments

The class is designed for PhD or MA students with interests both in the practical application and theoretical implications of on-line interaction and facilitation. The course is also a good opportunity for identifying a dissertation/conference paper topic and/or for starting a research project.


Class activities include lectures, group discussions of theoretical literature, analysis/critique of facilitation style and interactional success of various on-line groups, participation in on-line groups, and writing papers and reviews.


There are several main assignments for this class: a review essay, book review, a summary paper, and contributions to the Online Interaction Manual. Details about these four assignments are available through these links.

NOTE: In keeping with the goal of this class, which is to provide with you practical skills for the future, some of the activities require deep collaboration and publication of the results of this collaboration on publicly viewable websites. In case you prefer not to participate in the public version of the activities, please contact the instructor to discuss appropriate arrangements.

Total............................................. 1000 p

Grading is on a straight scale: 890-1000=A; 790-890=B; 690-790=C; 590-690=D; 590 and below=F.

All materials presented to me for grading should:

  1. Be your own work
  2. Should be created by you alone with no outside help
  3. Should cite and quote all material used verbatim
  4. Should not include copyrighted materials (text, illustrations, maps) that do not belong to you or for which you do not have written permission to use
  5. Should have not been used in any other class or created for any other purpose than the specific assignment you are presenting it for.

In addition, please carefully review and make sure that your are in full compliance with the University academic integrity policies.


All students are expected to attend all class activities. I will not take attendance, since I count on your maturity.

Emergency situations

In the event of a fire alarm, everyone must immediately evacuate the building until given the all clear by the fire department. In the event of an all hazards siren, everyone should immediately seek shelter in a safe location. In both cases, you should solicit additional clarifying information by all possible means: Purdue Homepage, TV, radio, email, etc. Additional information about campus preparedness is available at The Beering emergency plan, as well as evacuation maps of each floor of the building, can be found at

In case of emergency also follow these University adopted guidelines.

In the event of a major campus emergency, course requirements, deadlines and grading percentages are subject to changes that may be necessitated by a revised semester calendar or other circumstances beyond the instructor’s control. Check this webpage and your email for updates.

Students with disabilities

Any student who feels s/he may need an accommodation based on the impact of a disability should contact me privately to discuss your specific needs. Please contact the Disability Resource Center in room 830 Young Hall to coordinate reasonable accommodations for students with documented disabilities.

Weekly reading schedule

There are several required texts for this class:

Books were introduced in the fast campus delivery system. Three of the books are available as ebooks, downloadable immediately. Please avail yourselves of this opportunity. I will demonstrate how Kindle books can be read on laptops or desktops. If you would like to buy the books from other sources, please make sure you get the correct editions and the you have the readings available by the dues dates. In addition to these texts, we will also discuss the following readings. Each weekly batch is provided with a number of orientative questions, which should facilitate your reading process and the class discussion.


January 12 - 14 -- Introduction

Topic, objectives, methodology, class technologies

Example of previous reading review report

January 19 - 21 -- The big picture: Origins

  • What is the WELL? What are its ideals?
  • What seems to motivate on-line participation on the WELL?
  • What is the difference between Seabrook’s and Rheingold’s vision about the benefits (costs) of on-line communities?
  1. Rheingold, H. (2001). The Virtual Community: homesteading on the electronic frontier (1st HarperPerennial ed.). New York, NY: HarperPerennial. Read as much as you can from this book, but no less than the Introduction and Chapters 1-3
  2. Seabrook, J. (1997). Deeper. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster. Selected chapters. Pp. 145 – 183 mandatory, but also try to cover the ground up to 213. PLEASE BUY THE BOOK, YOU WILL NEED IT FOR THE REVIEW ESSAY
  3. Hafner, K. (1997, May). The epic saga of the Well. Wired, 5, n. pag.
  4. Dibbell, J. 1993. A Rape in Cyberspace. Village Voice.

USEFUL:Those curious to see with their own eyes where it all started can visit Also informative: Hauben, M. (1995, September 4, 1999). Netizens. On the history and the impact of the net [Webpage]. Retrieved August 8, 2000, from the World Wide Web:

Discussion Page for week 1

Jan 26 - 28, The big picture: The virtual community ideal and its sociological context

  • What is the sociological context in which the WELL and the online community vision took shape?
  • What is the relationship between individualism and community driven ideals in the virtual community project?
  • Is community possible without propinquity? What is Calhoun's larger conclusion about the possibility of online community?
  • Calhoun believes that the lack of face-to-face interaction prohibits virtual communities from existing with the same intimacy as more traditional communities
  • One of the key differences is that virtual communities are much more difficult to mediate
  • Community is not possible as a standalone entity without propinquity, socio-geographic closeness is an inherent feature of a community that virtual communities can not achieve
  1. Matei, S. (2001). From counterculture to cyberculture. Virtual community discourse and the dilemma of modernity.
  2. Rheingold, H. (2000). The virtual community: homesteading on the electronic frontier] (Rev. ed.). Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press. Last chapter
  3. Agre, P. (1999). Life after cyberspace. European Association for the Study of Science and Technology Review, 18(3), 3-5. [On-line]. Available:
  4. Calhoun, C. (1998), Community without Propinquity Revisited: Communications Technology and the Transformation of the Urban Public Sphere. Sociological Inquiry, 68: 373–397. doi: 10.1111/j.1475-682X.1998.tb00474.x

Discussion Page for week 2

Feb 2 - 4. Virtual community or Virtual Society? Or, maybe, virtual "communitas"?

  • What is the distinction between Society and community?
  • What is communitas ?
  • Are virtual communities "communitas"-like environments? In what way?
  • What rituals characterize online communities, at least as these are described by Rheingold or Seabrook?
  • What is the relationship between equality and communitas?
  1. Tonnies, Community and Society. Fragments (You can also buy the book from It is worth every penny).
  2. The Routledge Encyclopaedia of Religious Rites, Rituals and Festivals. Rites of Communitas
  3. Waskul, D. (2005). Ekstasis and the Internet: liminality and computer-mediated communication New Media and Society, v. 7, issue 1, p. 47-63.
  4. Victor Turner, The Ritual Process (fragments)
  5. M. Deflem -- Ritual, Anti-structure and Religion

Optional: Liminality and electronic communication

  1. Selected chapters from Virtual Sociability - browse and choose your favorite paper...
  2. Lawless, E. (1998) Ars Rhetorica en Communitas. Rhetoric Review, vol 16, 2. p. 310-326.

Discussion Page for Week 3

Feb 9 - 11. Individuality, subjectivity and community. Is there a connection?

  • Why does Wienberger say that "the web is for togetherness"?
  • Is the web a space for personal realization? Only for personal self-realization?
  • Is Weinberger closer to Rheingold or to Seabrook? Or to neither?
  • Is Sherry Turkle right in saying that we in fact are "Alone Together"? How can we reconcile her opinion with Weinberger's
  1. Weinberger, D. (2002). Small pieces loosely joined. Perseus. Chapter 5 and 6
  2. Alone, Together - Ted Talk
  3. Read as much as you can from Alone Together - At least Introduction and the first chapters of each section
  4. The Flight from conversation - Sherry Turkle, NYTimes Editorial

Discussion Page for Week 4

Feb 16 - 18 - What is the social structure of cyberspace how does it facilitate communication processes?

  • Does cyberspace have a social structure? Of what kind?
  • What kinds of roles do we have in cyberspace?
  • How do hierarchies and organizations work in cyberspace?
  • What is the extent to which social networks overlap with social organizations?
  • How do social networks form order in cyberspace?
  1. The Role of Social Networks in Information Diffusion, Eytan Bakshy, Itamar Rosenn, Cameron Marlow, Lada Adamic -
  2. Rethinking information diversity in networks - Bakshy Eytan -
  3. Marc Smith and Peter Kollock. Communities in Cyberspace.
  4. Welser, Howard T., Eric Gleave, Danyel Fisher, and Marc Smith. 2007. Visualizing the Signatures of Social Roles in Online Discussion Groups. The Journal of Social Structure. 8(2).
  5. Welser, Howard T., 2014. Breaking the iron law of oligarchy: Computational institutions, organizational fidelity, and distributed social control. in Roles, Trust, and Reputation in Social Media Knowledge Markets: Theory and Methods. Sorin A. Matei and Elisa Bertino, eds. New York: Springer Publishing House.
  6. Granovetter's theory of "weak ties"

Discussion Page for Week 5

February 23 - 25. Global structures and networks online: patterns, organizations, dynamics

  • When we look at the entire landscape of networked communication / community / society what kinds of patterns do we observe?
  • Where should the idea of glocalization fit in this mix? How does it change our understanding of social structures online?' How does this intersect with Metcalfe's Law? How about its intersection with " Everybody is an Influencer"
  • What do networks do? How do they help us achieve goals?
  1. Christakis and Fowler, Connected (intro, conclusion and description of how diffusion works in cyberspace)
  2. Wellman, B. (2002). Little boxes, glocalization, and the rise of networked individualism. Lecture notes in computer science. Digital cities II : computational and sociological approaches : (Kyoto, 18-20 october 2001, revised papers ) Kyoto workshop on digital cities No2, Kyoto , JAPON (18/10/2001) 2002 , vol. 2362, pp. 10-25 ISBN 3-540-43963-3
  3. Everyone is an influencer, Eytan Bakshy -
  4. Metcalfe's Law is Wrong -
  5. Three and a half degrees of separation on Facebook
  6. The anatomy of Facebook

You can skip this part of conversation if you want

  1. boyd, d. m., & Ellison, N. B. (2007). Social network sites: Definition, history, and scholarship. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 13(1), article 11.
  2. Rainie, L. and Wellman, B. (2012). Networked. Intro and conclusion, mandatory, read at least one other chapter of your own choice
  3. Dan Gillmor, We the media
  4. Levine, Locke, Searls, and Weinberger. The Cluetrain manifesto chapters:
    1. Four Markets are Conversations
    2. Five Hyperlinked Organization The rest of the book can be found online at

Discussion Page for Week 6

March 2 - 4. Individuality, subjectivity, community applied - Wikis

  • What is a "wiki"? What is mass collaboration?
  • How can we best describe Wikipedia?
  • What are its main strengths?
  • Weaknesses?
  • How does Wikipedia fit in our discussion so far?
  1. Wikipedia Neutral Point of View.
  2. Schiff, S. Know it all, New Yorker
  3. Kittur - Empirical Study of Wikipedia Structure of Collaboration
  4. - Sorin Matei, Ambiguity and Wikipedia | PDF of 2011 Paper
  5. Lim and Kwon, Gender differences in information behavior concerning Wikipedia, an unorthodox information source?
  1. McHenry, The Faith Based Encyclopedia
  2. Wired magazine. Open source everywhere.
  3. The Wikinomics "Revolution"
  1. To Browse: 
    1. Wikipedia Statistics
    2. Wikipedia Watch
    3. Top Wikipedia Pages T3
    4. The Wiki Principle, from The Economist T1
    5. A false Wikipedia biography - Seigenthaler
    6. The Seigenthaler incident wrap up
    7. How to use Wikipedia in the classroom T2
    8. History Flow and Wikipedia interaction T3
    9. Who writes Wikipedia T3
    10. Wikipedia's list of admins T3
    11. Five Pillars of Wikipedia T2

Other resources


Wired magazine. The book stops here.

Sanger. The early history of Nupedia and Wikipedia.

Discussion Page for Week 7

March 9 - 11. The social psychological foundations of virtual communities and online behavior (part I)

  • What are the main groups of social psychological theories that explain online interaction?
  • What roles do social cues play in shaping it?
  • What roles does technology play in shaping these cues?

  1. Walther, J. B., & Parks, M. R. (2011). Cues filtered out, cues filtered in: Computer-mediated communication and relationships. In M. L. Knapp & J. A. Daly (Eds.), Handbook of interpersonal communication(11 ed., pp. 443-479). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
  2. Kiesler, S., Siegel, J., & McGuire. (1984). Social psychological aspects of computer mediated communication. American Psyschologist, 39(10), 1123-1134. - Updated the link, no password needed.
  3. S Kiesler, JN Cummings. 2002. What do we know about proximity and distance in work groups? A legacy of research. chapter from Distributed Work (see Google Books Version for citation) - New - updated research by Kiesler, please read as well...
  4. Chan, M. (2014). Multimodal Connectedness and Quality of Life: Examining the Influences of Technology Adoption and Interpersonal Communication on Well‐Being Across the Life Span. Journal of Computer‐Mediated Communication, 20, 3-18.

Additional Reading: Human Brains Now Understand Smiley Emoticon Like A Real Face

Discussion Page for Week 8

March 14 - 19. Spring Break

March 22 - 24 The social-psychological foundations of online communities (part II)

  • Can we summarize the main findings of the literature listed below.
  • Can one overarching conclusion be drawn?
  • What tools can we use for building strong online communities?
  • What individual and group factors can be used to shape online groups?
  1. Start with this one: Ridings, C. & Gefen, D. (2004). Virtual Community Attraction: Why People Hang Out Online. JCMC 10(1), article 4.
  2. Kittur, A and Kraut, R. Beyond Wikipedia: Coordination and Conflict in Online Production Groups. CSCW 2010, February 6–10, 2010, Savannah, Georgia, USA.
  3. Lampe, C & Resnik, P. (2004). Slash(dot) and burn: distributed moderation in a large online conversation space. Proceedings of the SIGCHI conference on Human factors in computing systems, p.543-550, April 24-29, 2004, Vienna, Austria.(semi)-optional
  4. Ling, K., Beenen, G., Ludford, P., Wang, X., Chang, K., Li, X., Cosley, D., Frankowski, D., Terveen, L., Rashid, A. M., Resnick, P., and Kraut, R. (2005). Using social psychology to motivate contributions to online communities. Using Social Psychology to Motivate Contributions to Online Communities. JCMC, 10(4), article 10.
  5. Dan Cosley, Dan Frankowski, Sara Kiesler, Loren Terveen, John Riedl (2005). How oversight improves member-maintained communities. Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems. Proceedings of the SIGCHI conference on Human factors in computing systems table of contents. Portland, Oregon, USA.
  6. Ludford, P., Cosely, D., Frankowski, D., Terveen, L. (2004). Think different: increasing online community participation using uniqueness and group dissimilarity. Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems. Proceedings of the SIGCHI conference on Human factors in computing systems.


  1. Are Web 2.0 applications chaperoned? The Wisdom of Chaperones. Slate Magazine, February 2008.

Discussion Page for Week 9

March 29 - 31. Online communities in action: from theory to practice.

  • What is the difference between a "community of practice" and an online interaction group?
  • What are the typical phases in the lifecycle of a community of practice?
  1. Wegener, E. Digital Habitats.

Discussion Page for Week 10

April 5 - 7. Roles, Reputation, Trust, Social Networks - Community lifecycle

  • What is the natural life cycle of a user-contributon?
  • What motivators intersect with each lifecycle phase"
  • How do these dynamics support work interactions on Wikipedia or other sites?

check out the site as well

  1. Preece and Shneiderman, The Reader to Leader Framework
  3. Keegan, B., Gergle, D., Contractor, N. (2013) “Hot off the Wiki: Structure and Dynamics of Wikipedia’s Coverage of Breaking News Events.” American Behavioral Scientist, forthcoming
  4. Zhu et al. Motivations for Self-Assembling into Project Teams

Discussion Page for Week 11

April 12 - 14. Future research directions in online interaction

What are the emerging trends in social media/media research? Create a discuss the possible avenues for future development?

  1. Trends in New Media Research (with an emphasis on News Media) -
  2. Kietzmann, J. H., Silvestre, B. S., McCarthy, I. P., & Pitt, L. F. (2012). Unpacking the social media phenomenon: Towards a research agenda. Journal of Public Affairs, 12(2), 109-119.
  3. Pérez-Latre, F. J., Portilla, I., & Sánchez-Blanco, C. (2011). Social networks, media and audiences: A literature review. Comunicación y Sociedad, 24(1), 63-74.
  4. Shneiderman, B. Technology-Mediated Social Participation. The Next 25 Years of HCI Challenges . Online publication on author's site.

Use the ACM portal to find new sources


  1. The Seinfeld Gates PC campaign
  2. Marketing Matters talk by Paul Gillin
  3. A blog review by Measurement Standard
  4. Podcast of the talk given to QRCA
  5. Peruse Gillin's site

Discussion Page for Week 12

April 19 - 21. Final project activities

Online Interaction Manual Work

April 28 - 31. Final project activities