Evaluating the Effectiveness of Social Visualization within Virtual Communities

Evaluating the Effectiveness of Social Visualization within Virtual Communities

Diana Schimke (University of Regensburg, Germany), Heidrun Stoeger (University of Regensburg, Germany) and Albert Ziegler (Ulm University, Germany)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-340-1.ch008
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Participation and system usage is crucial for virtual communities to develop and sustain. However, many communities report very low participation rates of members. Finding and studying strategies for fostering participation in virtual communities is therefore a growing field of research and different approaches for strengthening participation in virtual communities exist – among them social visualization. While many tools for visualizing social interactions have been developed, not much empirical evidence about their actual effectiveness exists. To find out more about the effectiveness of social visualization on the participation rate (number of logins, forum posts, personal messages, and chat posts) the authors conducted an empirical study within CyberMentor – a virtual community for high school girls interested in science and technology. In their sample of N=231 girls the authors did not find a significant difference between the number of logins in the phases before and after the introduction of the visualization tool. The number of forum post, chat posts and personal messages however increased significantly after the incorporation of the visualization tool. Long-term effects were found for one-to-many communication technologies (forum, chat), but not for personal messages (one-to-one).

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