***** To join INSNA, visit http://www.sfu.ca/~insna/ ***** I've just co-edited a book about the analysis of online social spaces, such as usenet and cowebs (also known as Wiki Webs). This list has periodically discussed ways of dealing with data online: at various times, for example, we talked about ways of extracting Usenet data, and what one might do with it. Using social networks has been an increasingly-important way of dealing with online data; in fact, two of the projects featured in the book explicitly use network analysis to deal with their online groups. - >From Usenet to CoWebs: Interacting with Social Information Spaces Christopher Lueg and Danyel Fisher, eds. London: Springer-Verlag. January, 2003 Price: US$49.95 http://www.ics.uci.edu/~danyelf/projects/book.html FROM THE INTRODUCTION This volume explores ways to look at, and instrument, spaces for social awareness. We want to learn how to look at a space, and understand what is going on with the group that inhabits it. We want to come to a space to learn what it has to offer. We want to build new spaces that open themselves to productive exploration, both to researchers and to participants. These are tasks for statisticians and designers, sociologists, anthropologists, and technologists to work together to explore, characterise, and build these spaces. Through this book, we ask what aspects of an online group are important to its participants. What tools do we have to measure online groups, and what do those measurements mean? What are appropriate tools for the researcher to use to examine the group? What tools might be brought to the group to examine itself? We also try to understand a second question: How can we take advantage of the specific characteristics of social information spaces to build new or enhance existing interfaces to these spaces? Different kinds of spaces have been built with different attributes: some are highly controlled spaces, carefully limiting what sorts of contributions can be made to the space, while others grant a high degree of freedom to their users. These technical attributes partially drive the social abilities of users. Because software can be used to restrict certain types of use, software drives the culture, norms, and understandings in the groups. Differences in user interfaces can be affect the participants' experience of the space-as well as the ability to study the groups, and the ability to collect data from them. These differences will delineate some of the abilities to measure and understand the spaces, and will shape the conversation happening within the spaces. Researchers have enjoyed extensive access to social information spaces. Usenet is publicly accessible and discussion lists are often easy to join, so an anthropologist can lurk quietly, asking questions of a few key informants but remaining largely hidden. Online spaces have been a popular domain of study: a researcher of virtual worlds once commented half in jest, "every MUD has its own ethnographer." The longer tradition of formal online research has been dominantly qualitative, as those public spaces allowed for close examination. From this tradition has emerged a rich variety of projects, from examinations of individuals and their social interaction, to larger-scale issues of group overload and crises of filtering. Our emphasis in this volume, however, is with an eye to fine-grained, quantitative studies. Quantitative researchers take advantage of the fact that online spaces are easily amenable to computer analysis. Of course, some aspects of online interaction can be invisible to quantitative techniques. Although these types of studies may never fully convey the texture of a space, they can be powerful tools for describing many of the important group behaviours and attributes. They have the ability to process large amounts of data at once, allowing visualizations to interactively compare different data sets. Quantitative methods can therefore be very good at highlighting potentially interesting sites for closer future study. TABLE OF CONTENTS Part I: Introduction to Online Studies and Usenet 1 Introduction: Studying Social Information Spaces -- Danyel Fisher 2 "A Standing Wave in the Web of Our Communications": Usenet and the Socio- Technical Construction of Cyberspace Values -- Bryan Pfaffenberger Part II: Studying Spaces 1 Measures and Maps of Usenet -- Marc Smith 2 The Dynamics of Mass Interaction -- Steve Whittaker, Loren Terveen, Will Hill, Lynn Cherny 3 Conversation Map: A Content-Based Usenet Newsgroup Browser -- Warren Sack 4 Silent participants: Getting to know lurkers better -- Blair Nonnecke and Jenny Preece Part III: Enhancing Spaces 1 Computer Mediated Communication among Teams: What are "Teams" and how are they "Virtual"? -- Erin Bradner 2 CoWeb - Experiences with Collaborative Web spaces -- Andreas Dieberger and Mark Guzdial 3 From PHOAKS to TopicShop: Experiments in Social Data Mining -- Brian Amento, Loren Terveen, and Will Hill 4 GroupLens for Usenet: Experiences in Applying Collaborative Filtering to a Social Information System -- Bradley N. Miller, John T. Riedl and Joseph A. Konstan 5 Exploring Interaction and Participation to Support Information Seeking in a Social Information Space -- Christopher Lueg Appendix: Studying Online Newsgroups _____________________________________________________________________ SOCNET is a service of INSNA, the professional association for social network researchers (http://www.sfu.ca/~insna/). To unsubscribe, send an email message to [log in to unmask] containing the line UNSUBSCRIBE SOCNET in the body of the message.