Workshop on the Role of Online Community Spaces in Shaping Virtual
Community Interactions

International Conference on Communities and Technologies
September 19th, 2003, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.

Important Information:
Submissions to: [log in to unmask]
Deadline for submission: June 16, 2003
Notification of Acceptance: by June 30, 2003
Further Workshop Information:

Modern communication technologies increasingly situate interpersonal
interactions virtually; often in online community spaces that enable
shared inter-personal interactions. Researchers are still trying to
understand basic usability issues associated with these community
spaces. Further complicating matters, new types of online spaces are
emerging that link community systems to aspects of the physical
environment or user mobility.

This workshop aims to examine the connection between community space
design and community interactions.  This will be achieved through a
diverse group of participants exploring together from a wide variety of
perspectives the significance of various features of online communities

The online spaces where virtual community members interact are referred
to by a wide variety of labels including chat rooms (Read 1991),
cyber-inns (Coate 1992), virtual settlements (Jones 1997), commons
(Kollock and Smith 1994), and conferences (Hiltz and Turoff 1981). Some
systems are completely open to the public, such as LambdaMoo (Schiano
and White 1998), others are restricted to a membership (Schlager and
Schank 1997), or a specific task or purpose (Erickson 1999).  The
diversity of online community space designs and labels highlights how
system features provide a context for community interactions.

This workshop aims to explore the role of online community spaces in
supporting virtual community interactions. Among the questions we plan
to address are:
* Which features of online community spaces help shape discourse and
social networks?
* What critical factors are necessary to evolve an online space into a
community place?
* What are the links between features of client communication software
and online community interactions? For example, what is the significance
of push-versus-pull and synchronous-versus-asynchronous message exchange?
* What is the significance of an online community space having a hybrid
(Harrison and Dourish 1996), location linked (Espinoza et al. 2001), or
wearable (Kortuem, and Segall 2003) design?
* How can we extend our understanding of the nature and utility of
online community spaces to incorporate changes resulting from the
adoption of pervasive computing technologies?

When and what theoretical constructs are useful to understanding how to
enhance interactions in community spaces? For example, social presence
(see Whittaker in press) and media richness (see Whittaker in press)
have all been put forward as ways to understand virtual community
interactions, but it is not clear that they are of significant value to
designers of online spaces.  An important question is how do they help
us understand how to support sustainable discourse dynamics and build
cyber-commons where diverse egocentric social networks can coalesce?

A variety of disciplines are pertinent to these explorations, including
psychology, sociology, architecture, linguistic and discourse analyses.
   Each one approaches the notions of space and common ground for
interaction from a slightly different perspective, and level of detail.
   Other disciplines may have pertinent insights and approaches.  We
would like to encourage them all. Important perspectives and issues
include the notions of space and place (Harrison and Dourish 1996),
common information space (Bannon and Bodker 1997), common ground in
discourse (Clark 1992), discourse architecture (Jones and Rafaeli 2000),
genre theory (Erickson 2000), and other detailed aspects of linguistics
(Brennan and Ohaeri 1999).

There have been a number of past community workshops, covering formation
of communities, construction of infrastructures and understanding
aspects of group formation and vitality. We would like to expand this to
a deeper understanding of the mechanisms involved as they relate to
online community space.

If participants agree, activities will start with dinner at a local
restaurant the night preceding the full day workshop[1].  Before
ordering dinner a general orientation of the workshop will be given by
the organizers, along with introductions.  During dinner participants
will present their submissions. They will be given a maximum of 3
minutes to speak. This dinner meeting will enable us to maximize the
full day workshop. Accepted participants will be expected to have read
the positions papers before attending the dinner and the workshop.

The full day will be divided into a number of interactive sessions,
rather than just presentation of position papers. The exact details will
depend upon the position papers received, however we hope to: 1) Explore
participants’ examples of how the design of virtual space provides
common ground for user interactions; 2) Examine how communities use
public interactions in virtual spaces to create shared meaning; and 3)
Look at the impact of online behavior on community development and

By the end of the workshop participants will have catalogued design
differences, cues, and behaviors in various virtual settings, and
explored how they support behavior in work related spaces. If attendance
is high we may break into subgroups for more intense discussion.  If
this is the case then each smaller group will report back with their key


Participants will be selected on the basis of position papers submitted
prior to the workshop.  Proposals should be no longer than 6 pages and
should include description of the following aspects.

1)An existing online community space;
2)An examination of how the space/s under consideration provides cues
and common ground for user interactions, and ;
3)Theoretical ideas or approaches that help you understand context and
social interaction, or;
4)Analysis of different types of  online communities (e.g. hybrid and
purely virtual spaces).

Position papers should explain how the author’s work relates to the
workshop theme. We are particularly interested in seeing perspectives at
a variety of levels, ranging from meta to micro-scale analyses.

Submissions should be sent to [log in to unmask] by June 16, 2003. Position
papers will be reviewed by the workshop organizers and notification of
acceptance will be by June 30, 2003.

We look for a wide range of participants although the focus is primarily
on researchers concerned with the notion of space.  This includes, but
is not limited to system architects and designers who have thought about
and implemented supports for social interaction, social psychologists,
linguists and sociologists who have studied online interactions.


Quentin (Gad) Jones is an Assistant Professor at the New Jersey
Institute of Technology. Prior to his current position, Quentin was a
researcher at AT&T labs research, New Jersey.  Before living in the
United States he was a doctoral student in Information Systems at Hebrew
and Haifa Universities Israel. Quentin’s research focus is on
understanding mass interaction ecologies that result in thriving virtual
communities. His current online community research projects include
Cyber-Archaeology, ContactMap, and GeoMemory.

Christine Halverson is a researcher at IBM Research.  She is involved
with the development and analysis of systems to help work groups
interact collaboratively over networks. Her analytic approaches have
included visualizations, linguistic analysis, online participation and
observations among others.  Her research group has designed and deployed
a number of online systems including BABBLE & Loops.


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[1] We did this at the CSCW02 workshop and found that this worked well
for all but those who flew in too late to join us (2 out of 12).It gave
a chance for people to get to know each other before they take the
workshop, and engages them early in understanding each other's positions