CSCW 2010 keynote by Clay Shirky

Clay Shirky

The first keynote at CSCW 2010 was given by Clay Shirky, the author of “Here Comes Everybody”. I really liked his presentation style. He used PowerPoint as everybody else does, but would blank out the screen from time to time and have the audience’s focus on him. Following are some of the interesting points from his talk.

There is a big difference between publishing in the past century and this present one. In the 20th century, people would ask “why publish?” and now, the question is “why not?”. This is primarily due to the significant reduction in cost for publishing. Today, almost anyone can create a blog, post a Twitter update, and update their status on social networking sites with very little cost and effort.

Motivation is highly valuable aspect to study in communities. Why does/should someone contribute/create? Clay gave an example of people using Lego blocks to create structures. Two teams were given the same blocks and tasks. None were paid for the first week. The second week, one of the teams was paid. They took longer to finish as they were trying to build some more blocks to get paid more. Interestingly, when nobody was given any compensation the third week, the team that was paid in the second week did worse than even the first week! They had lost their “motivation”. This motivation was extrinsic, as opposed to the other team that did what they did based on their intrinsic motivation. Clay gave a couple of other examples showing how intrinsic motivation can make people create and contribute significantly more than when they are extrinsically motivated.

Clay then talked about cultures. He argued that culture can take the role of coordinating people and events. Once people’s coordination behavior is changed, you can essentially change their culture. In other words, to influence people to change their culture, change their coordinating environment. This can be done by providing extrinsic motivations.

The second workshop on CIS: many ideas – some new, some old!

I attended the second workshop on collaborative information retrieval/seeking at the CSCW 2010 conference in Savannah, GA. The first one was held with JCDL 2008 conference in Pittsburgh. In fact, this is my third workshop on this topic as I also attended the collaborative information behavior workshop the past summer at GROUP 2009 conference. All of these workshops had several similar themes, with some overlapping participants (I realized that I’m the only one who has been to all of them!).

The second CIR/CIS workshop was different than the first one in the sense that we didn’t spent too much time arguing over the definitions. I think that’s a big improvement and shows the maturity of the community. We stayed focus on users, systems, models, and transitions. Some of the interesting themes that emerged as we went through several panels and discussions are as following.

  • The issue of control is really important. If a CIS system is bringing many features to the user because of their potential usefulness, it needs to do it seamlessly. People may like the system doing something “smart” for them, but this should be done with transparency. More than those benefits the system could offer, it’s important that the user trusts the system; he needs to feel in control.
  • Awareness is another core issue that kept coming up. In one of the spun off groups, we discussed what we need for a shared awareness and how to implement it. We proposed to do it (1) actively, or (2) passively. In the former case, a user pushes certain artifacts (webpages, searches, etc.) actively in the awareness space. In the latter case, the system records pretty much everything without explicit knowledge of the user. A combination of these two can help us dial up/down the amount of awareness and privacy.
  • A good way to encourage and begin collaborations is by converting social ties to collaborative ties. The social ties are light-weighted, and many already have such ties due to their involvements in social networks and online communities. We can facilitate such social agents to connect with each other in collaborations when appropriate.