Designing Online Communities: How Designers, Developers, Community Managers, and Software Structure Discourse and Knowledge Production on the Web




Owens, Trevor

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Discussion on the Web is mediated through layers of software and protocols. As scholars increasingly study communication and learning on the web it is essential to consider how site administrators, programmers, and designers create interfaces and enable functionality. The managers, administrators, and designers of online communities can turn to more than 20 years of technical books for guidance on how to design online communities toward particular objectives. Through analysis of this "how-to" literature, this dissertation explores the discourse of design and configuration that partially structures online communities and later social networks. Tracking the history of notions of community in these books suggests the emergence of a logic of permission and control. Online community defies many conventional notions of community. Participants are increasingly treated as "users", or even as commodities themselves to be used. Through consideration of the particular tactics of these administrators, this study suggests how researchers should approach the study and analysis of the records of online communities.



Educational technology, History of science, Information technology