I have three active projects going right now. Each project, though, often has multiple studies and papers. All three projects concern questions about how the technological design of social computing / social media systems influences the user behavior on those systems. In short, I am trying to understand incentive mechanisms in social computing: causal relationships between technology designs and user behavior that can be re-used across many different types of social media systems.
Socio-Technical Design of Crowdfunding Websites
Crowdfunding websites like Kickstarter.com and Spot.us allow anyone to post project ideas and solicit donations. These systems create a two-sided matching market: interested donors need to be matched with interesting projects. However, there is a complication: projects need a minimum amount of money to be likely to succeed. I am studying how the rules and technologies that support such websites can be designed to create efficient donations and to encourage participation and donation.
Influencing Mental Models of Security
Many people have computers in their homes. But unlike computers located in businesses, these computers are administered largely byuntrained home users. This has led to many of these computers being the victims of numerous computer crimes. I am investigating how homecomputer users think about the process of securing their home computers: what are the threats that they face, and how do they dealwith those threats? In addition, I am looking at how we can change people’s understanding – their mental models of security threats – in a way that will lead to better security decisions.
Achieving Critical Mass in Social Media
Social media systems require user participation and user contribution in order to succeed. However, users’ participation decisions are not made in isolation; there is a strong feedback influence. People only choose to participate in social media systems based on what contributions they see others making, and their expectations about the future of the social media system. I am investigating how this process works, how we can “bootstrap” this process at the beginning of the life of a social media system, and how it eventually produces a “critical mass” of self-sustaining contributions.