CPSC 689/602--Spring 1997
Computer-Supported Cooperative Work

Paper Report

Title: Building an Electronic Community System
Authors: Bruce R. Schatz
Citation: Schatz, B. R. (1991-92). Building an Electronic Community System. Journal of Management Information Systems 8(3), Winter 1991-92, pp. 87-107
Reprinted in: Readings in Groupware and Computer-Supported Cooperative Work: Assisting Human-Human Collaboration by Ronald M. Baecker on pp. 550-560

This article is about the issues involved in constructing an electronic community system. A electronic community system is a system that records and organizes the memory of a community of people. It is useful in orienting new people to the culture and state of a group and for sharing knowledge and information. The authors list several conditions that are necessary for such a system to work. There must be a willingness to share unpublished data. Also, there is a need for almost all of the information to already be in electronic form. The authors also point out the need for a uniform interface across all the types of data.

One interesting assertion that the authors make is that for a communication system to be considered successful, it must not only work, but also bring about societal change. This contrast with the often exposed view that new systems should not disrupt the current way of doing things by fitting into the current method. However, if they are talking about a gradual change, such as the ones caused by the telephone and television, this seems like a reasonable condition to uses.

The other two main points that the authors make have to do with the kinds of controls over the information. The first control that they mention is having levels of editorial release. These would run the entire spectrum from simply posted on a discussion group to refereed in the same manner as traditional journals. This would allow people to judge information more accurately. The second control is support for differing levels of privacy on information. The levels would be the logical progression from totally private to readable by the world.

After discussing the above issues, the rest of this article describes the preceding system to the one described in the article, the Telesophy system, and the current system. It also describes the community which the system was tested in, the community of researchers studying the Caenorhabditis elegans nematode worm. The authors discuss the culture of this community and what parts of that culture may be important to the success of the system.

Report prepared by: Tom McCollum, Email: tommc@cs.tamu.edu
Discussion date: 3/7/97            Report date: 3/17/97