Designing Online Communities: Read My Accepted Dissertation Proposal

Wisdom of the Ancients: the web-comic-epigraph for my dissertation proposal, from XKCD

As of last monday, I have now successfully defended my dissertation proposal. In the context of my doctoral program, that means there is just one more hurdle to climb over to finish. I’m generally rather excited about the project, and would be thrilled to have more input and feedback on it (Designing Online Communities Proposal PDF). I would be happy for any and all comments on it in the comments of this post.

Designing Online Communities: How Designers, Developers, community Managers, And Software Structure Discourse And knowledge Production On The Web

Abstract: Discussion on the web is mediated through layers of software and protocols. As scholars increasingly turn to study communication, learning and knowledge production on the web, it is essential to look below the surface of interaction and consider how site administrators, programmers and designers create interfaces and enable functionality. The managers, administrators and designers of online communities can turn to more than 20 years of technical books for guidance on how to design and structure online communities toward particular objectives. Through analysis of this “how-to” literature, this dissertation intends to offer a point of entry into the discourse of design and configuration that plays an integral role in structuring how learning and knowledge are produced online. The project engages with and interprets “how-to” literature to help study software in a way that respects the tension that exists between the structural affordances of software with the dynamic and social nature of software as a component in social interaction.

What’s Next? 

At some point in the next year I will likely defend a completed dissertation. Places do dissertations differently, in my program the idea is that what I just defended is actually the first three chapters of a five chapter dissertation. So, at this point I need to follow through on what I said I would do in my methods section (to create chapter 4, results) and then write up how it connects with the conceptual context section (to create chapter 5, conclusions). So I should be able to grind this out in relatively short order.

At this point, I think this project should be interesting enough to warrant a book proposal. So I’ll likely start exploring putting together a book proposal for it in the next year as well. With that in mind, any suggestions for who might be interested in receiving a proposal on this topic are welcome.

…more offers to come

….so we lost the lovely lake house 🙁

Trevor and I went through the most hilarious red tape making offers on this guy. The books we studied about first-time home buyers all warned us, or rather reminded us that there is no “one perfect house” and to persevere in our home buying experience. Probably because they are mostly written by real estate agents. The tricky thing about this warning, of course, is that in order to be serious enough to put an offer on a house, you have to picture yourself living there for more years than you have lived anywhere (outside of the house you grew up in). In fact, you have to picture starting a family in that house. So you find a house, you like it, you see your future there, you bid on it, and its lost. And you have to pick things up and move on.
…and it can be an emotional process, even when you don’t want it to be.
…but in the case of our last offer, they put us through so much red tape and stalled so badly, I think I’m just overjoyed to know something. And now that we know, we are ready to move on.

On this same day, I had an interview with a new graduate program I have been considering. This is a huge, intimidating commitment, but the interview went very well and the faculty of the program were just great people. I’m still waiting to hear more details about my acceptance, but in the mean time, it is a little piece of exciting news.

Inspired by Josh at work I ran my undergraduate thesis through a tagcloud generator. I think its kinda neat. If you didn’t get a chance to read my thesis, you can see what the most repeated words were. So without further adieu, here is “A Child’s Eye View of Life as a Scientist”

accounts against albert almost american answers apparatus appears applied approach around atomic authoritative authority barometer beautiful beckhard become begins being biographer biography books case central century character child children compass connected consider curie dank different discussion distinct doorly early einstein ends eva example experience experiences experimental explicit fact father focus frank further gender general girl given hard highlight history however ideas important incident insight insists inspector instead later learn less levinger life lives manya marie matter mcpherson mention messages mileva moral mother nature newton notes objects offer paper parker passage past people personal physics picture possible power professor public pure questions radium rather readers rebellious relationship role russian school science scientific scientists second section several significance similar society something sources states story students study subject success teachers tells test texts theoretical theory things think told trend understanding value ways wife wise woman womanhood women wonder work world written years young
created at

A dubious anniversary

It has been a year since my graduate career had been trounced.

I remember the whole thing in a series of stills, kind of how you remember a car crash. My family was in the kitchen taking the cake out of the fridge to sing happy birthday to my brother. I went in to check my email, because as a graduate student I was constantly preoccupied with my email.

I opened my in-box and could not believe the news I had read. Months of work and stress and toil had been shoved into the garbage disposal and shredded. I felt like someone took a razor to every nerve ending in my body and made a fine cut straight through the diameter. I was straight up sick for about a month after and got about 3 cold sores in a row.

I’ll never forget one day, sitting next to Trevor while he was on his computer. His speakers made a sudden, loud, kind of awful noise. I was so on edge I just started crying uncontrollably. My nerves had been so shot. I had never been that stressed out before.
I read once that graduate students often score the same on stress tests as terminally ill cancer patients and I’m sure if you checked me, that is where I would have been a year ago.
…anyway, I’m not the first to claim that American graduate schools are broken and I’m sure I won’t be the last. Students are helpless and vulnerable to a professional who’s title is often paired with the word “nutty.” Nutty indeed.
The important thing for me is that it just doesn’t matter anymore. I’m glad my world screeched to a halt a year ago. I hit the “refresh” button and the view was much clearer.