Context and behavior

I appreciated SocialText’s Ross Mayfield describing the various levels of interaction in his One on One interview with Fierce Content Management. The interview reminds me that social context alters behavior and motivations. Think of an intranet situation, where interactions are between bosses, colleagues, direct reports, and coworkers. The goals in this context are to increase productivity and collaboration speed, but corporate culture changes motivations. Then consider the context of an internet site, where interactions and customer relationships can be deepened and enhanced while providing customer service. Contributors to a wiki or any online content management system will certainly vary their behavior in accordance with the offline expectations of them.

I think it was in the book Groundswell that I read a case study where a company brought in a wiki, thinking that Generation Y employees would embrace it. But Generation Y wisely stayed away, because they didn’t have the authority required to make the system work well. Since the higher-ups stayed away from the new system, there was no leading by example, nor was there incentive for the newest, less tenured employees to use the system.

Patrick Davison is a digital artist living in NYC, and he designed the cover for my book. His Ignite talk has a similar theme – considering how your reasons for using a particular site or application (such as Second Life) shapes how you act there. The title is “The Plight of the Digital Chickens” and I think you’ll enjoy it as much as I do.

What are other examples of context shaping online behavior? I’m sure danah boyd has great examples in her papers.

One comment

  • January 4, 2010 - 11:56 am | Permalink

    What a coincidence that you bring up this topic! On both my personal blog and my BMC blog, I notice that I only occasionally receive comments, and rarely more than a couple on an individual post. However, I currently have a poll running on my blog about whether you call the current year “twenty ten” or “two thousand ten” (, and I’ve already received over 20 responses to the poll (and on involved conversation by a reader).

    I think you have something with authority. Everyone calls the current year something, so they’re all equally qualified.

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