The promise of web 2.0 systems holds that a diverse swarm of users will gather to contribute and collaborate on a social system, whether to create an encyclopedia or rate content. Some of the most valuable contributors to these systems play a role that I characterize as informal experts, in that they may know something about the topic at hand but are not necessarily formally recognized by others for their expertise. At times, however, it’s not immediately evident who these informal experts are, particularly if the system aggregates contributions in such a way that they look equivalent on the surface.
Because of this ambiguous position in the social hierarchy and the aggregation of contributions alongside novice participants, these informal experts may be more likely to be territorial about their contributions, especially if they have committed time and resources in obtaining their expertise. I propose, though, that certain territorial expressions may be good for a social system when managed appropriately and can ultimately benefit an online community.
I’ll be presenting this work at CHI 2010 during the Expertise session on Wednesday, April 14th, 11:00-12:30.
Thom-Santelli, J., Cosley, D., and Gay, G. What Do You Know? Experts, Novices and Territoriality in Online Environments. Proc.CHI2010.