Q&A Communities

The SocialWorlds Research group has conducted numerous studies of Q&A communities. Our interest has been in how these communities function. The first study was of Java Forum, and it detailed how the community functioned and how expertise was distributed and shared. We then studied Yahoo Answers, along with its sister sites Naver in Korea and Baidu in China. We also compared the three sites. These studies examined why answerer helped, and whether there were intercultural differences.  More>

Expertise Sharing

Our group was one of the originators of expertise sharing as an area of study. Our work has included expertise finders, people recommenders, and collaborative help systems. As well, we have conducted many studies of how people helped one another through computer-mediated communications and within organizations. As the span of networks and computational systems expanded, the scope of our study expanded to Internet-scale systems and communities. Recent work has also expanded to Q&A communities (question-and-answer) communities and social search.  More>

Health Translations

In our study of people with diabetes, high blood pressure, and kidney disease in Flint, Michigan, we found people actively trying to manage their health in the face of poverty, potentially violent conditions, high stress, and a distrust of institutionalized medicine. More specifically, we observed people translating the health information they're handed into the context of their everyday lives - creating local strategies for chronic illness management.

Currently we are constructing a generalized application, named FIT, to help people understand their chronic conditions. FIT is video-based and personalized to individuals in their local contexts.  More>


Escalier is a new architecture for community-sourcing configuration settings, and by extention other types of pervasive data such as activity traces. Users can find out what system configurations will be stable in return for giving the community their configuration data. By doing this, both parties get something valuable: End-users can determine whether their system configurations will work, and the community as a whole gets a collaboratively-built datastore, or collective memory.   More>

Digital Memories

This project investigates  what will happen in the future as more "memories" become digital.  The Digital Memories project focuses on an understanding of how artifacts (heirlooms, souvenirs, photographs, photographs, correspondence, collections, and their digital analogs) play roles in people’s everyday lives and how memories are preserved through, embedded in, and carried by those artifacts.  More>

Social Analyses of Online Communities

Under construction - only some projects are detailed here.


Online discussions such as a large-scale community brainstorming often end up with an unorganized bramble of ideas and topics that are difficult to reuse. A process of distillation is needed to boil down a large information space into information that is concise and organized. Arkose is a system-augmented approach to the problem - a set of tools with which human editors can collaboratively distill a large amount of informal information. More>


(completed) QuME tackles the expertise location and maintenance problem for large-scale Q&A communities. It does so by automatically distributing tasks to people who have the necessary expertise.

Expertise finders are an important class of collaborative recommendation systems, but they suffer from a general problem: Current expertise finders, both commercial and research, cannot infer expertise levels very well. QuME includes novel algorithm to infer expertise levels, making a larger range of social interaction possible.  More>


Help-seeking communities play an increasingly critical role in how people seek and share information online, forming the basis for knowledge dissemination and accumulation. We would like to find mechanisms to use the social network characteristics of these communities design new systems and algorithms.  However, differing network structures and dynamics will affect possible algorithms that attempt to make use of these networks, and little is known of these impacts.

We developed a CommunityNetSimulator (CNS), a simulator that combines various network models, as well as various new social network analysis techniques that are useful to study online community (or virtual organization) network formation and dynamics. More >


(Continued) ProD is an opensource public display framework designed to simplify the task of building audience-aware public display applications.  Prospero provides abstractions for both the social and technical concerns for public display development, including extendable user profiles, recommender systems, context, privacy, and governance.

This work was continued in YAP, KeepUp, and StoneSoup.More>


(Completed) The goal of iDiag is to foster community-wide, short-term brainstorming or discussion, on the order of days or weeks, and preserve that community knowledge. But an unstructured discussion will result in the standard nest of topics and messages. Therefore the project has created tools to help people distill the topics and messages from the discussion. The idea is be to create something that can be used for further reflection and discussion. iDiag consists of two tools - iDiag/CyberForum and iDiag/Consolidate More>


(Completed) In this project, we wanted to examine the role of art in information systems beyond its traditional design implications (such as effective communication and aesthetical decoration). We used the Pangmangi information display prototype to conduct group interviews with people from diverse backgrounds about how they viewed the use of art in the system. Our analysis uncovered ways that art is a versatile design medium due to its being socially, culturally, and contextually constructed.  More>


(Completed) SSAPP is a Simple Sensor Architecture for Pervasive Prototyping.  There are many pervasive computing sensor architectures.  However, most of these systems are complex, and not easy for novice users to configure or use.  SSAPP is a simple sensor architecture designed to enable developers familiar with internet technologies to rapidly build and deploy pervasive applications.  More>