Crowdsourcing civility: A natural experiment examining the effects of distributed moderation in online forums

Cliff Lampe, Paul Zube, Jusil Lee, Chul Hyun Park, Erik Johnston

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

58 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Participation in discussions about the public interest can be enhanced by technology, but can also create an environment in which participants are overwhelmed by the quantity, quality, and diversity of information and arguments. Political participation is at a greater disadvantage than non-political activities in that participants from different parties already start out with established differences, which requires them to reach some form of common ground before progress can be made. Those seeking authentic deliberation are discouraged to participate when confronted with uncivil and inflammatory rhetoric. These issues are often exacerbated in online discussions, where lack of identity cues and low barriers to entry can lead to heightened incivility between participants, often labeled as "flaming" and "trolling". This paper explores the extent to which moderator systems, tools online discussion forums use to manage contributions, can reduce information overload and encourage civil conversations in virtual discussion spaces. Using the popular website Slashdot as an example of sound moderation in a public discourse setting, we found that users move toward consensus about which and how comments deserve to be moderated. Using these findings, we explore how transferable these systems are for participation in public matters specifically to the unique attributes of political discussion. Slashdot's political forum provides a comparison group that allowed us to find quantitative and qualitative differences in political posting, comments, and moderation. Our results show that large scale, civil participation is possible with a distributed moderation system that enables regularly lively debates to be conducted positively because the system provides tools for people to enforce norms of civility.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)317-326
Number of pages10
JournalGovernment Information Quarterly
Volume31
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - 2014

Fingerprint

experiment
participation
political participation
moderator
public interest
deliberation
website
rhetoric
conversation
discourse
lack
Group

Keywords

  • Deliberation
  • Human-computer interaction
  • Moderation systems
  • Politics
  • Public administration
  • Social media

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Law
  • Library and Information Sciences
  • Sociology and Political Science

Cite this

Crowdsourcing civility : A natural experiment examining the effects of distributed moderation in online forums. / Lampe, Cliff; Zube, Paul; Lee, Jusil; Park, Chul Hyun; Johnston, Erik.

In: Government Information Quarterly, Vol. 31, No. 2, 2014, p. 317-326.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

@article{3ab982ad580946938b078f0ab750b3c0,
title = "Crowdsourcing civility: A natural experiment examining the effects of distributed moderation in online forums",
abstract = "Participation in discussions about the public interest can be enhanced by technology, but can also create an environment in which participants are overwhelmed by the quantity, quality, and diversity of information and arguments. Political participation is at a greater disadvantage than non-political activities in that participants from different parties already start out with established differences, which requires them to reach some form of common ground before progress can be made. Those seeking authentic deliberation are discouraged to participate when confronted with uncivil and inflammatory rhetoric. These issues are often exacerbated in online discussions, where lack of identity cues and low barriers to entry can lead to heightened incivility between participants, often labeled as {"}flaming{"} and {"}trolling{"}. This paper explores the extent to which moderator systems, tools online discussion forums use to manage contributions, can reduce information overload and encourage civil conversations in virtual discussion spaces. Using the popular website Slashdot as an example of sound moderation in a public discourse setting, we found that users move toward consensus about which and how comments deserve to be moderated. Using these findings, we explore how transferable these systems are for participation in public matters specifically to the unique attributes of political discussion. Slashdot's political forum provides a comparison group that allowed us to find quantitative and qualitative differences in political posting, comments, and moderation. Our results show that large scale, civil participation is possible with a distributed moderation system that enables regularly lively debates to be conducted positively because the system provides tools for people to enforce norms of civility.",
keywords = "Deliberation, Human-computer interaction, Moderation systems, Politics, Public administration, Social media",
author = "Cliff Lampe and Paul Zube and Jusil Lee and Park, {Chul Hyun} and Erik Johnston",
year = "2014",
doi = "10.1016/j.giq.2013.11.005",
language = "English (US)",
volume = "31",
pages = "317--326",
journal = "Government Information Quarterly",
issn = "0740-624X",
publisher = "Elsevier Limited",
number = "2",

}

TY - JOUR

T1 - Crowdsourcing civility

T2 - A natural experiment examining the effects of distributed moderation in online forums

AU - Lampe, Cliff

AU - Zube, Paul

AU - Lee, Jusil

AU - Park, Chul Hyun

AU - Johnston, Erik

PY - 2014

Y1 - 2014

N2 - Participation in discussions about the public interest can be enhanced by technology, but can also create an environment in which participants are overwhelmed by the quantity, quality, and diversity of information and arguments. Political participation is at a greater disadvantage than non-political activities in that participants from different parties already start out with established differences, which requires them to reach some form of common ground before progress can be made. Those seeking authentic deliberation are discouraged to participate when confronted with uncivil and inflammatory rhetoric. These issues are often exacerbated in online discussions, where lack of identity cues and low barriers to entry can lead to heightened incivility between participants, often labeled as "flaming" and "trolling". This paper explores the extent to which moderator systems, tools online discussion forums use to manage contributions, can reduce information overload and encourage civil conversations in virtual discussion spaces. Using the popular website Slashdot as an example of sound moderation in a public discourse setting, we found that users move toward consensus about which and how comments deserve to be moderated. Using these findings, we explore how transferable these systems are for participation in public matters specifically to the unique attributes of political discussion. Slashdot's political forum provides a comparison group that allowed us to find quantitative and qualitative differences in political posting, comments, and moderation. Our results show that large scale, civil participation is possible with a distributed moderation system that enables regularly lively debates to be conducted positively because the system provides tools for people to enforce norms of civility.

AB - Participation in discussions about the public interest can be enhanced by technology, but can also create an environment in which participants are overwhelmed by the quantity, quality, and diversity of information and arguments. Political participation is at a greater disadvantage than non-political activities in that participants from different parties already start out with established differences, which requires them to reach some form of common ground before progress can be made. Those seeking authentic deliberation are discouraged to participate when confronted with uncivil and inflammatory rhetoric. These issues are often exacerbated in online discussions, where lack of identity cues and low barriers to entry can lead to heightened incivility between participants, often labeled as "flaming" and "trolling". This paper explores the extent to which moderator systems, tools online discussion forums use to manage contributions, can reduce information overload and encourage civil conversations in virtual discussion spaces. Using the popular website Slashdot as an example of sound moderation in a public discourse setting, we found that users move toward consensus about which and how comments deserve to be moderated. Using these findings, we explore how transferable these systems are for participation in public matters specifically to the unique attributes of political discussion. Slashdot's political forum provides a comparison group that allowed us to find quantitative and qualitative differences in political posting, comments, and moderation. Our results show that large scale, civil participation is possible with a distributed moderation system that enables regularly lively debates to be conducted positively because the system provides tools for people to enforce norms of civility.

KW - Deliberation

KW - Human-computer interaction

KW - Moderation systems

KW - Politics

KW - Public administration

KW - Social media

UR - http://www.scopus.com/inward/record.url?scp=84899910881&partnerID=8YFLogxK

UR - http://www.scopus.com/inward/citedby.url?scp=84899910881&partnerID=8YFLogxK

U2 - 10.1016/j.giq.2013.11.005

DO - 10.1016/j.giq.2013.11.005

M3 - Article

AN - SCOPUS:84899910881

VL - 31

SP - 317

EP - 326

JO - Government Information Quarterly

JF - Government Information Quarterly

SN - 0740-624X

IS - 2

ER -