Insightful Talk with Professor Aaron Shaw on The Phenomenon of Online Participation Inequality

In the oil of the digital era, online data is one of the most valuable assets to all the online platform and even to academic field. Using online data could be able to analyze the activities in online spaces. Taiwan Institute for Governance and Communication Research (TIGCR) was honor to invite Aaron Shaw, Assistant Professor of Department of Communication Studies, University of Northwestern to have a short discussion with our members about the online participation in United States on Nov 15. After the brief introduction and the operating situation of our center by TIGCR’s Director Chi Huang, Professor Shaw indicated that there are some overlaps between the research in TIGCR and his research and he is also looking forward to participate the international conference held by TIGCR next year.

In the discussion, Prof. Shaw shared four of his research papers with TIGCR members that mainly focus on the communities, participation and population in online spaces. There are two main objectives of his researches. He first mentioned that one of the goal his team would like to get is to understand the mechanism and the impacts of participation inequalities in online spaces. He also shared the idea of “pipeline” which is one of the main concepts in his research to build a model talking about the online participation in Wikipedia. “We borrowed the idea of ‘Pipeline’ from lots of researches and look at in terms of online participation and knowledge production,” he claimed.

Prof. Shaw's short discussion 

(Photo credit: TIGCR)

Prof. Shaw shared the other part of the researches which focuses on the governance and the organization of online communities. “Though there are Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, they produce information resource that is not aggregated as a public kind of body of knowledge in quite the same way. so they focus on wikipedia,” he said. Therefore, gathering the digital trace data as big data source is the most important part of the research. In his research, he treated Wikipedia as one community to understand both questions about how communities grow and change over time, as well as what kind of things explain which community is going to survive, which community is going to attract more contributors and how the distribution of participation and power works in communities.
Nevertheless, Prof. Shaw thought that is really critical to think about communities and platforms as unit analysis. Regarding the analysis of the online activities in Taiwan, he suggested that the research could basically to expand the scope because the forums like PTT consist with many different communities inside it. “It is an opportunity to do more work there, especially because it seems that when many individuals go on the internet, they choose particular places and those are all voluntary open.” He said to support that it is also important to understand the dynamics by this kind of opinions discussion process happen in these small communities in Taiwan.

Group photo after talks

(Photo credit: TIGCR)