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Sociality, community and productivity in Virtual Citizen Science

Sociality, community and productivity in Virtual Citizen Science
Sociality, community and productivity in Virtual Citizen Science
Virtual Citizen Science describes web-based crowdsourcing activities which recruit volunteers to complete microtasks for scientific research. VCS methodologies have been applied to diverse research challenges, from identifying neurons in MRI-scan images of the optic nerve, to morphologically classifying images of galaxies. Initiatives generally rely on participants’ intrinsic motivations to encourage contributions, but increasingly designers are turning to additional mechanisms – including the use of online community features and discussion platforms such as forums. However, the influence of these features on participant engagement are still poorly understood. Drawing on a pragmatist, mixed-methods approach, this thesis explores the relationship between these social features within task and discussion elements of projects, to understand the influence of such features on volunteer productivity and project efficiency. A literature review of five transdisciplinary databases was conducted to identify design principles, motivations and social features associated with VCS approaches. This was then followed with a review of 48 VCS projects, to better understand the online community features within current VCS initiatives. To understand and clarify these findings, interviews were conducted with six members of the EyeWire project design team. Analysis of competitions in EyeWire demonstrated a relationship between task sociality and increased productivity and activity within the project. Finally, an analysis of two high-pressure VCS projects explores how periods of heavy productivity affect discussion activity. This research contributes to the understanding of motivational factors and design affordances within Virtual Citizen Science and similar crowdsourcing initiatives.
University of Southampton
Reeves, Neal
80e12072-7fc9-47ab-850e-649b7c0a7271
Reeves, Neal
80e12072-7fc9-47ab-850e-649b7c0a7271
Simperl, Elena
40261ae4-c58c-48e4-b78b-5187b10e4f67

Reeves, Neal (2019) Sociality, community and productivity in Virtual Citizen Science. University of Southampton, Doctoral Thesis, 402pp.

Record type: Thesis (Doctoral)

Abstract

Virtual Citizen Science describes web-based crowdsourcing activities which recruit volunteers to complete microtasks for scientific research. VCS methodologies have been applied to diverse research challenges, from identifying neurons in MRI-scan images of the optic nerve, to morphologically classifying images of galaxies. Initiatives generally rely on participants’ intrinsic motivations to encourage contributions, but increasingly designers are turning to additional mechanisms – including the use of online community features and discussion platforms such as forums. However, the influence of these features on participant engagement are still poorly understood. Drawing on a pragmatist, mixed-methods approach, this thesis explores the relationship between these social features within task and discussion elements of projects, to understand the influence of such features on volunteer productivity and project efficiency. A literature review of five transdisciplinary databases was conducted to identify design principles, motivations and social features associated with VCS approaches. This was then followed with a review of 48 VCS projects, to better understand the online community features within current VCS initiatives. To understand and clarify these findings, interviews were conducted with six members of the EyeWire project design team. Analysis of competitions in EyeWire demonstrated a relationship between task sociality and increased productivity and activity within the project. Finally, an analysis of two high-pressure VCS projects explores how periods of heavy productivity affect discussion activity. This research contributes to the understanding of motivational factors and design affordances within Virtual Citizen Science and similar crowdsourcing initiatives.

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Published date: August 2019

Identifiers

Local EPrints ID: 438081
URI: http://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/438081
PURE UUID: 55b51c80-17bf-464a-807e-c5d5ef03cab1
ORCID for Elena Simperl: ORCID iD orcid.org/0000-0003-1722-947X

Catalogue record

Date deposited: 28 Feb 2020 17:30
Last modified: 13 Dec 2021 03:10

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Contributors

Author: Neal Reeves
Thesis advisor: Elena Simperl ORCID iD

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