Computer-mediated Collective Action System

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Lawrence Liu:

"The segments have the following attributes:

   * Teams with strong ties: common objectives, fixed or collaborative processes, measured outcomes.
   * Communities with weak ties: common interests, ad-hoc or adaptive processes, spontaneous or unpredictable outcomes.
   * Networks with potential ties: personal interests, emergent or no processes, undefined outcomes.

And the following software applications (not an exhaustive list!):

   * Teams: document repositories, task lists, wikis, calendars, activity steams
   * Communities: blogs, forums, calendar, member profiles, people feeds, topic feeds, activity steams
   * Networks: member profiles, “friends” lists, activity steams"


Graphic at


Lawrence Liu:

"The importance of my proposed model for collective action is its relevance to the neverending desire of people and businesses to collaborate because it is mostly through the act and process of collaboration, as defined in my previous blog entry, that significant decisions are made and tasks get done. Although collaboration can occur between 2 or more people in any of the segments of the spectrum, my assertion is that collaborative efforts are optimized as the decreasing number of members and the increasing tie strength amongst those members approach that of a typical team. This is what I call the “Collaboration Funnel” as depicted in the diagram above.

The value of thinking about collective action as a continuum of 3 segments is my thesis based primarily on my experience with Microsoft SharePoint’s worldwide ecosystem, the greater likelihood that communities will grow, and the more vibrant a community, the greater likelihood that teams will form. Hence, the less friction there is in both the software used by and the organizational structures/processes governing the people transitioning from 1 segment to another, the easier it will be for teams to form, communities to grow, and networks to expand. From a software perspective, the friction between the segments can be minimized either with a common technology platform or with seamless integration between the respective platforms used in each segment. For instance, if you are relying on SharePoint for teams, Telligent for communities, and Facebook for networks, then you should endeavor to implement as seamlessly as you can the integration between those platforms.

Another major benefit of this model for collective action is that it reveals the need for either a common analytics tool or a set of seamlessly integrated analytics tools that can span all 3 segments. Measurement and reporting via an analytics tool are necessary because much of the activities are emergent rather than structured even in the most tight knit of teams, so any rigid structures or processes would would increase friction. Therefore, you must measure, report, and analyze the activities quickly and iteratively in order to make informed decisions about what to do next. Moreover, analytics will ultimately enable the most relevant content to be targeted at specific users (based on previous activities in any of the 3 segments) thereby making information discovery and contextual awareness much more efficient. And this is indeed one of the primary objectives for Telligent’s ongoing R&D investment in analytics for the entire spectrum of computer mediated collective action." (


  • "Picturing Usenet: Mapping Computer-Mediated Collective Action” research paper, published in 2005 and co-authored by Dr. Marc Smith and Lawrence Liu.