Using the example of user courts from the 2000s of the internet as well as the Wikipedia arbitration court, the Seed Money project investigates how communities on small and niche platforms actively shape the enforcement of rules.
Close community cooperation and increased identification with the platform often promote mechanisms in which communities actively adopt and enforce the rules that come from these platforms ("ownership"). This project will explore the relationship between identification with the platform, community participation and the enforcement of rules. The perspective of platforms, especially small and niche platforms and their community areas will be included. Exemplary user courts from the 2000s of the internet, but also the Wikipedia arbitration court will be examined.
- What types of community identification and participation exist and to what extent do they support the development and enforcement of rule-making?
- What role does ownership play in this? How can this be described?
- What kind of decision-making structures about rule-making exist (e.g. user courts), what do they look like, how "democratic" are they?
We will survey those platforms, which have already been contacted in the platform governance project during the super election year 2021. The focus is on the impact of their community work in terms of "ownership". This type of "ownership" is described as an identification; a concept that the study would like to bring together with the offers of community participation and survey it qualitatively. There are a variety of participation formats, such as user courts, "superuser status", trusted flaggers and arbitration courts, which enable participation.
- To what extent do these forms of pre-institutionalisation promote a high level of identification and commitment with the platform itself?
- Do they support the enforcement of norms or generate dissent from existing community rules of the platform?
- To what extent do they stabilise the moments of identification and "ownership" of a platform?
- When and how are the rules binding with the (private-entrepreneurial) platform?
- How relevant is the cooperation with the platform itself?
Answering these questions will provide a first overview of the development of ownership on community-involved social media platforms and thus bring new perspectives to the existing research on communities.
In this way, the study should contribute to the academic debate with niche communication spaces and other alternative digital and public spaces as experimental fields of a democratic-oriented practice.
Image: Engraving of Gilbert and Sullivan's Trial by Jury.