This project, ongoing since July 2016, looks to further our understanding of the social and emotional reasons and motivations that lead users to ask and answer questions and otherwise participate, interact, and share information on social questioning-and-answering sites. It employs content analysis, a survey, and semi-structured interviews to explore users’ socio-emotional motivations and the influence of these motivations on the potential coherence of communities around their questioning, answering, and interactions in the Academia section of StackExchange, a social Q&A site for academics and higher education students. Analysis draws from the literature on socio-emotional motivations, Burnett and Jaeger’s theory of information worlds, and the concept of coherence from Star’s boundary object theory. I am grateful for funding from a Support for the Advancement of Scholarship (SAS) Grant provided by the University of Alberta Faculty of Education. I am working with two graduate research assistants (RAs) on this project, Rachel Osolen and Alicia Cappello.
The study has been approved by the University of Alberta’s Research Ethics Board. We have analyzed content from 100 questions and their associated answers and comments, partial findings from which will be presented at an international research conference on social media (see below). We have also conducted our survey of Academia Stack Exchange users and interviewed a number of them about their experiences; analysis here is ongoing. Further will be posted here on progress, publications, and presentations as it becomes available.
Publications and Presentations
- Worrall, A., Osolen, R., & Cappello, A. (2017). “How do I tell my advisor?”: Socio-emotional motivations for information sharing in Academia Stack Exchange [Poster]. To be in A. Gruzd, J. Jacobson, & P. Mai (Chairs), Proceedings of the 8th 2017 international conference on Social Media and Society, Toronto, ON, July 28–30, 2017. New York, NY: ACM.
- Presents (as described above) in-progress research on the social and emotional factors that motivate users to ask questions, answer questions, and share information with other users on Academia Stack Exchange. Findings indicate a stronger role for norms, communality, and self-efficacy than in previous work, along with greater negativity and a concerning lack of empathy. Users display a stronger focus on socio-informational components and learning more about academic communities’ norms, culture, social perceptions, and reputation practices, similar to legitimate peripheral participation.
The following are permanent links to the consent forms that participants agreed to when participating in the research: