Computers & Education 54 (2010) 1233–1240

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Promoting social network awareness: A social network monitoring system
Rita Cadima a,*, Carlos Ferreira a, Josep Monguet b, Jordi Ojeda b, Joaquin Fernandez b
a b

Polytechnic Institute of Leiria, Rua General Norton de Matos, Apartado 4133, 2411-901 Leiria, Portugal Polytechnic University of Catalonia, Av. Diagonal, 647, 08028 Barcelona, Spain

a r t i c l e

i n f o

a b s t r a c t
To increase communication and collaboration opportunities, members of a community must be aware of the social networks that exist within that community. This paper describes a social network monitoring system – the KIWI system – that enables users to register their interactions and visualize their social networks. The system was implemented in a distributed research community and the results have shown that KIWI facilitates collecting information about social interactions. Furthermore, the visualization of the social networks, given as feedback, appeared to have a positive impact on the group, augmenting their social network awareness. Ó 2009 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Article history: Received 12 March 2009 Received in revised form 9 November 2009 Accepted 17 November 2009

Keywords: Awareness Social networks Distributed learning environments Multimedia/hypermedia systems

1. Introduction Knowledge is created and exchanged to a large extent through informal social interactions (Ogata, Yano, Furugori, & Jin, 2001; StorbergWalker & Gubbins, 2007) that allow the transfer of sensory information, intuition and non-verbal communications (Cummings & Yeng, 2003). Knowledge flows depend on the connections between individuals and on their attitude about sharing knowledge (Inkpen & Tsang, 2005; Ipe, 2003; Lin, 2007; Wang & Yang, 2007). Supporting collaboration and work in these social networks has been increasingly recognized as important for organizations to compete on knowledge and on their ability to innovate and adapt (Cross, Parker, & Borgatti, 2002), calling attention to the importance of considering the social capital. Social capital refers to the collection of social trust, norms and networks that people can draw upon to solve common problems. While human capital refers to properties of individuals such as knowledge, social capital implies connections among individuals and the value derived from these connections (Daniel, McCalla, & Schwier, 2002). In distributed communities, communication technologies alone seem not enough to promote communication and knowledge sharing (Cummings & Yeng, 2003; Lin, 2007). It appears to be very important to be aware of others in order to communicate and collaborate (Hu, Kuhlenkamp, & Reinema, 2002). Thus, virtual environments must provide means to communicate social cues and context information (Kreijns, Kirschner, Jochems, & van Buuren, 2007). Supporting awareness – to be aware of the ideas, knowledge, and activities of the others – has been used as one of the strategies to increase knowledge sharing and collaboration opportunities (DiMicco, Hollenbach, Pandolfo, & Bender, 2007; Gutwin & Greenberg, 1997; Ogata & Yano, 1998). Awareness systems help people to effortlessly maintain awareness of others, thus facilitating lightweight, emotional, and informal forms of communication (Van Baren, IJsselsteijn, Markopoulos, Romero, & de Ruyter, 2004). Different mechanisms were applied to build awareness of ‘‘who knows what” by distributing information about people’s expertise and it has proven effective in increasing knowledge awareness (Cross, Parker, Prusak, & Borgatti, 2001). But knowledge in communities is highly implicit and socially constructed (Novak & Wurst, 2005) and knowing that someone else knows something of relevance does little good if people cannot gain access to their knowledge and help just in time. This accessibility is directly connected to social network awareness, which we understand as the awareness of social relationships within the group – the awareness of ‘‘who knows whom”. It seems helpful to map access relations at a network level to understand who is able to reach whom in a sufficiently timely way (Cross et al., 2001). In a virtual environment users must be able to perceive and compare the social patterns of activity to their own models of work and interaction. This could enhancing users’ motivation to communicate and collaborate and will allow them to structure their social networks to maximise their benefits by getting closer to the existing resources and opportunities (Soller, Martínez, Jermann, & Muehlenbrock, 2005).
* Corresponding author. Address: Polytechnic Institute of Leiria, Campus 1, Rua Dr. João Soares, Apartado 4045, 2411-901 Leiria, Portugal. Tel.: 00351 938 256607/00351 244 829400; fax: 00351 244 829499. E-mail addresses: (R. Cadima), (C. Ferreira), (J. Monguet), (J. Ojeda), (J. Fernandez). 0360-1315/$ - see front matter Ó 2009 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved. doi:10.1016/j.compedu.2009.11.009

according to Zheng and Yano (2007).. 2007). / Computers & Education 54 (2010) 1233–1240 Fig. The system provides users with a gathering tool for registering their interactions and automatically analyses and presents social network information through a visualization tool. This system innovates by asking directly people about their interactions. It also intends to analyse its effects on users’ social awareness and behaviour. it seems relevant to explore which techniques can be used to support it (Otjacques. KIWI is a web-based application with two separate views: one for data collection and other for feedback. 2003). 1. which in turn would require considerable effort to uncover significant relationships within the group (Chen. In a scientific research domain communication and sharing is essential and could facilitate knowledge divulgation and expert accessibility. More specifically. without implying major changes to users’ current behaviour (the imposition of new communication tools could change the existing spontaneous informal network and would not ensure that all of what was happening was being recorded). & Mansfield. Taking this into account. given that scientific work processes can be seen as informal learning processes with a high level of social interaction that allows knowledge sharing and knowledge construction (Braun. The present study addresses these issues by describing a social network monitoring system expected to enhance social network awareness in a distributed community. Monitoring system model. Li. 2007). we developed a social network monitoring system aimed at uncovering the social network of a distributed R&D community – knowledge interactions to work and innovate (KIWI)1 – that addresses simultaneously: (a) gathering information about social networks and (b) promoting social network awareness. 2006). Davidson. Gobert. Wang. 2007). preliminary data collected during its implementation as well as the evaluation of the system by the users are analysed and further discussed. First. & Ingraffea. only a subset of all the interaction occurring in the workspace are usually monitored. this option can act as a filtering strategy which will increase the extraction of meaningful information and decrease the burden in analysis. potentially leading to a disparity between effort and benefit (Rittenbruch. & Feltz. Gay. instead of producing extensive data as most monitoring systems do. 2001) and can be a valuable analytical tool to examine complex social processes and outcomes in communities (Cho. 2007). & Hefke. Second. a researcher more advanced in a specific field could give some useful cues to a beginner student. Although the required involvement in the data gathering process creates additional workload for users. 1 It should be mentioned that there is a different project with the same name KIWI. 2. Ogata. Explicit social network information is extracted from a database through social network analysis (SNA) techniques. & Ou. from face-to-face meetings to mail and chat interaction. this strategy is likely to promote individual responsibility. the system supports social network awareness of users by making the hidden networks visible to all community. This EU Project is concerned with knowledge management in semantic wikis and it was funded by the European Commission under the Project Number 211932. In this way users could be more aware of the connections that allow knowledge transfer and the possibilities to access knowledge. For example. and to improve self-awareness. SNA provide a rich and systematic means of assessing informal networks by mapping and analyzing relationships among people (Cross et al. to strengthen trust among participants. more efforts are required to develop tools to uncover social networks and explore this social dimension of awareness. Also. Monitoring knowledge sharing could increase the comprehension about how much each individual receives from the community and how he or she is using knowledge from within the community. Considering the importance of awareness. By directly asking users about their interactions it is possible to monitor every kind of interaction. Noirhomme. Cadima et al. 1). allowing them to register every kind of interactions. we note two advantages of this strategy. & Yano. Viller. without abstracting or evaluating users’ behaviours. self-direction and self-management of their own activities (Zheng. However. The purpose of this paper is to present and describe the implementation of KIWI system in a real world environment. in order to address these goals. . According to system model (see Fig. Schmidt. We are particularly interested in knowledge intensive domains.1234 R. In addition to its potential to go further in a systematic analysis of social network by researchers and/or community managers. Overview of KIWI system KIWI system is a social network monitoring system that depends on active participation of users in the data gathering process.

the visualization tool also provide graphical quantitative information trough bar charts (number of people in their individual network. 2008) allowing us to assess its usability and giving an opportunity to collect users’ opinions about which social network information was most relevant to them. Screenshot of the data gathering tool. / Computers & Education 54 (2010) 1233–1240 1235 2. To implement this tool. 3 in Section 3. It is implemented through a simple form-based web page where a user sees a list of community members (identified by name and picture) and responds by clicking on those people with whom he/she has interacted (see Fig. Cadima et al. 2. 2).2). two things are necessary: (a) identify the community members that will be monitored and (b) define what kind of interactions will be registered. After establishing the community participants it would only be possible to register interactions between these people.2.2. the community members selected in the previous sessions appear in a prominent area – my network. 2. Social network diagrams are used to visually represent networks and uncover patterns of people’s interactions (see Fig. Data gathering tool The main requirement for the design of this data gathering tool was to minimize the additional workload for users. This data gathering tool was already tested in a previous study (Cadima et al. At the top of page there are the questions and definitions that explain the interactions that should be registered. The layout of the interface adapts with ongoing use. the user can be more aware of his/her regular network. These first results guided the design of the visualization tool..1. For each person. Fig. More details about the options taken for this tool in the field test will be provided in Section 3. at the same time. In this way the effort for looking for regular co-workers is reduced and. To let users assess the effectiveness of their personal network. and there is great flexibility when deciding what kind of information will be displayed.R. frequency of each type of interactions). . After each user’s first response. the user can identify different kinds of interactions. Visualization tool The visualization tool is a web page that contains weekly updated diagrams and real-time bar charts. The visualization tool works automatically from the system database.

Participants This study was developed within a distributed community of 37 researchers – the Multimedia Engineering PhD Programme of Polytechnic University of Catalonia (UPC).1236 R. 3.1. Cadima et al. many Research. In this community. Screenshot of the visualization tool. Development and Innovation (RD & I) projects and services rely upon . / Computers & Education 54 (2010) 1233–1240 Fig. 3. Method 3.

(c) define what kind of information should be filtered out from the system database and showed back to the community members. Arrows were used to reflect the direction of knowledge transfer. by showing to community’s managers the need for strategies to improve communication and collaboration opportunities. type of information shared and existing help. Denmark. 5 = strongly agree).1. 3 = agree/disagree.. face-to-face encounters. designers.g. presenting the social network accumulated in the past weeks. In these network diagrams. users were requested to fill out an on-line survey to evaluate system usability and the effects of its usage on users’ social network awareness and perceived motivation to interact with others. Portugal. 3. / Computers & Education 54 (2010) 1233–1240 1237 multidisciplinary teams that bring together different expert knowledge domains (engineers. 4. 3): (a) network diagrams and (b) graphical quantitative information. and items 9–11 focused on users’ perceptions about the effects of the system on their motivation to communicate and collaborate (e. During the field test. it was decided that all the active members of community (37 people) should be monitored and that they will be weekly asked about the interactions that allowed knowledge transfer. the information displayed improved my awareness about the others and their interactions). (b) define what kind of interactions should be registered. 2 = disagree. number of knowledge receiving transfers and knowledge giving transfers. To implement KIWI system three steps were necessary: (a) identify which people should be monitored. 2002) and NetDraw (Borgatti. Spain. During the 8 weeks of the field test the visualization tool provided two types of information (see Fig.g.4). as well as to describe existing networks of communication and collaboration in terms of tools used. Diagrams (A) and (B) in Fig. The total data registered by participants allowed the description of the connections and members centrality within the network. according to their status as researchers. anthropologists. but many members are located on other countries (Venezuela. Everett. Results 4. There is a central unit located in Barcelona.8 interactions by person by week (SD = 4. Community members were also asked about their satisfaction with the communication and collaboration occurring and it was observed that the participants longed for more interaction. Group values were presented to distinguish local group social activity (people located at Barcelona) from distance group activity (people located at disperse countries) and to distinguish beginnerstudents from advanced students and supervisors. 4 = agree. showing a cohesive network . 2002) for representing and analyzing the collected data. frequency. Procedure A preliminary study in this community allowed understanding the work methods and typical research activities of each individual. both individual values and group values were presented to each user. The questionnaire had 13 items (e. I could understand all the information displayed in the KIWI system). 3).g. The visualization tool was used and the participants were asked to respond to the KIWI data gathering tool every week.5 times per person during the 8 weeks. Colours and symbols were used on nodes to give meaningful information: triangles represented supervisors while PhD students were represented with circles and squares. users were invited to access the visualization tool for receiving feedback on community’s interactions. After the first diagnostic and several meetings with supervisors and community directors. Cadima et al. 4 display all connections registered. and USA) and primarily maintain virtual interaction with others. Items 1–4 covered the efficiency of the system (e.R.e-cols. These results. and the time average of each response was 1. After using KIWI for eight weeks. showing that users often accessed KIWI just to visualize their social network. items 5–8 were used to evaluate the effect of the system on users’ social network awareness (e. We use SNA tools UCINet (Borgatti. chat.. Every week a new diagram was posted. my participation in this study gave me more motivation to help others).2. in some cases. The individual mean average was 6. KIWI system usage We use system logs to describe KIWI system usage. Social network analysis In this section we present a small amount of the total data collected to illustrate the potential of the system on given relevant and useful information about the community’s social network. psychologists). gave support to the implementation of KIWI system in this community.. Mexico. This community uses a web platform for information sharing and there are weekly seminars (virtual conferences) for individual and group research presentations. 2002) to visually represent all the social connections registered. even if it was only registered by the sender or by the receiver.86 min. 4.g. the gathering tool was used a mean average of 4. or. Most communications occur outside this platform through mail. Besides registering their interactions once a week. & Freeman. identifying those people with whom they interacted for knowledge sharing during that week. each node in the network represents a person and each arc represents a knowledge transfer channel (see Fig. (b) Quantitative information: Six graphs were presented with weekly and cumulative information: number of contacts. Each user had to classify the giving or receiving (or both) character of the interaction with each other user. These results indicate how easy was to manipulate the gathering tool. (a) Network diagrams: We used social network analysis software tool NetDraw (Borgatti. and the participant was asked to rate each item. Colombia. mathematicians.2. there was a few time effort to contest the KIWI every week) with a 5-point Likert scale (1 = strongly disagree. teachers. The system was integrated into the community web platform COLS (www. patterns.92 times per person during the 8 weeks. the Barcelona group was in blue and everyone else in red. Every knowledge transfer was represented. Because the visualization tool is personalized and adapts to the user.

(density = 0.e.. 4 displays only distance group network. Beginner-students had the lowest rates. Exploring if these values could be explain by the participation rate. There were a total of 633 knowledge transfers resulting from 549 records of knowledge receiving and 339 of knowledge giving. & Fleming. the reader is referred to the web version of this article. with 55. Rivkin. However. 2007). Inside this subgroup. Supervisors seemed to have higher levels of interaction and were more likely to assume knowledge giving.552) and non-hierarchical structure. Members occupying these positions seem to have more control over diverse resources located in multiple sub-groups (Cho et al. The potential ambiguity existing in the gathering process could be explained by the nature of the question asked: ‘‘With whom did you interact for knowledge sharing?” The act of identifying when there exists knowledge sharing could de complex and ambiguous. the results were very similarly to those found in all community.1238 R. The high values of the standard deviations suggest that there was a great variability of behaviours among each group. Garcia-Perez & Mitra. In this section we analyse more deeply the frequency and direction of knowledge sharing. network cohesion decreases (density = 0. there could be several knowledge transfers matching to each week of the study. . 4. / Computers & Education 54 (2010) 1233–1240 Fig. We analyse how many transfers were registered by both giver and receiver and this accuracy of users’ answers is displayed in Table 1. For interpretation of color in Figs. These results show that users tend to be more willing to acknowledge that they had received. High degree centrality seems important. considering only the interactions where atleast one of the members belong to the distance group (i. but there are also four people at distance group (red) with a central role in network’s accessibility. Accuracy of users perceptions on knowledge sharing In the previous section we described the connections between people (who interact with whom). Betweenness captures the property of frequently lying along the shortest path between pairs of persons. especially when sharing tacit knowledge (Chiva & Alegre. Cadima et al.5% of knowledge transfers were identified by both giver and receiver within a group of 15 people for a 4 weeks period trial. in both receiving and giving. Diagram (D) displays local group network revealing an extremely cohesive (density = 0. Social networks for knowledge sharing. 2 3 Network density is the proportion of lines present in the graph to the maximum number of lines possible and it is often interpreted as a measure of cohesion of the group.149) and an isolate two persons group shows up. Within all community. 2006). The comparison of groups’ results shows that people from local group had a higher level of interaction. nodes are sized according to individual’s degree (diagram (A)) and betweenness (diagram (B)).9% registered by both giver and receiver. 2–4. with 41. because it has been shown that it is positively associated with performance through the improvement of individual’s access to resources (Cho et al. because in each two-people connection. Degree refers to the extent to which an individual has numerous connections to other members.1% registered by both giver and receiver. In diagram (B) large nodes identify those people who constitute access bridges for those who are not directly connected. These results are significantly different from the results obtained in the first pilot test where 60. Our results show that several people from the local group (blue)3 act as a bridge. especially on giving knowledge. 2007). we analysed the transfers occurred only within a subgroup of 16 participants with a higher rate of participation (responded six or more weeks to KIWI) and the accuracy of answers gets slightly higher..3% transfers registered by both giver and receiver. ignoring transfers between two local group members). To better understand the structural importance and prominence of each person. Table 2 displays the mean ranks by groups and the proportion of interactions for knowledge receiving and knowledge giving. there were only 40. We also explored if face-to-face interactions could be a confusing factor when deciding if there was a knowledge transfer occurring. 2005. The central position of local group in community social network may represent to this group a greater advantage in receiving and applying knowledge (Soreson. 4. Diagram (C) in Fig.2442) with no isolated sub-groups except a single individual (he answered KIWI gathering tool several times informing that there were no interactions).. 2007). In these cases it is easy for the receiver acknowledge that knowledge transfer occurred but difficult for the giver to realize that there was a useful knowledge transfer.3.

Group n Knowledge receiving Mean Local group Distance group PhD beginner-students PhD student-researchers Supervisors N 14 23 10 22 5 37 16. some users noted some effort and difficulty in understanding all the information displayed in the visualization tool (items 3 and 4). / Computers & Education 54 (2010) 1233–1240 Table 1 Percentage of knowledge transfers registered in each of three situations: registered by both receiver and giver.27 19.1 87 68. Knowledge transfers between all members (n = 633) Registered by both giver and receiver Registered only by receiver Registered only by giver 40.8 Knowledge giving Mean 11. We also analysed the users’ perceptions about system’s effects in their motivation to communicate and collaborate (items 9–11). My participation in this study gave me more motivation to interact with others 10. My participation in this study gave me more motivation to ask for help 12.7 45. The reflection I had to make to contest KIWI made me more aware about my interactions and my role in the community 6.61 3.90 0.90 0.9 73. SD + D – percentage of ‘‘strongly disagree” and ‘‘disagree”.3 73.2 4.1 52.0 % 58. My participation in this study gave me more motivation to help others 11. However.R.98 0.4 8.8 64.09 4.2 5.2 Table 3 Survey results on evaluating the system’s usability and the effects of its usage in users’ social network awareness. I found positive and useful the reflection I had to make to contest KIWI 13. I had to make hardly any intellectual effort to contest KIWI 3.71 7. Cadima et al.3 Knowledge transfers between members with higher participation rate (n = 186) 55.3 0 18.09 0.36 4. admitted to have more motivation for asking help. This difficulty could have some negative effects in the reflection and interpretation process and deserve future attention and improvement. In a general way. N 1.86 0. M – mean average of response.5 55.5 44.5 56.6 95. A + SA – percentage of ‘‘agree” + ‘‘strongly agree”. The information displayed was relevant for me 7.69 11.7 12.9 31.77 3.58 0. 5.3 4.9 Strongly agree 65.8 8.2 65.57 4.3 8. In respect to the effectiveness of the system in augmenting users’ social network awareness (items 5–8).8 Table 2 Mean ranks by groups and proportion inside group of interactions for knowledge receiving and knowledge giving registered by each individual of the group.04 3.7 4.9 % 41. the system had a slight impact in users’ motivation. which indicates that the graphics provided could be slightly complex or that too much information was being given.83 SD 9.96 1.83 0.4 17.92 0.8 38.69 11. According to participants’ opinion.48 3. The information displayed improved my awareness about the others and their interactions 8.0 9.2 69.87 4. users were very satisfied in using KIWI system and considered that the reflection required was positive and useful and the information provided was relevant to them.5 4.16 SD 8.1 8.5 73. I could understand all the information displayed in the KIWI system 5.81 N – number of answers.1 39. 45%.4 18. SD – standard deviation. users were request to answer to an on-line survey that intended to evaluate the usability of the system and the effects of its usage in users’ social network awareness and behaviours.1 46.0 14. Users’ social network awareness After the field test. The information displayed improved my awareness about my interactions and my role in the community 9.35 3.2 21. % SA – percentage of ‘‘strongly agree”.6 39.44 11.13 SD 0. I’m satisfied with my participation in this study 23 23 22 22 23 22 23 23 23 23 22 23 23 Negative (%) SD + D 4.1 12. Conclusions This paper has presented KIWI as a social network monitoring system and its application to one real world scenario. About 57% of users considered that their motivation to interact and help others had improved.3 8.2 27. There was a few time effort to contest the KIWI every week 2.7 26. Table 3 summarizes survey’s results.84 0. A little less.4 73. Regarding the evaluation of the system efficiency (items 1–4). registered only by receiver or registered only by giver.45 3.4.3 8.41 4.2 18.80 15.8 11.7 39.5 9.4 1239 Virtual knowledge transfers (n = 438) 41.2 35. Results have shown that users can easily use KIWI to give information about their social networks of knowledge sharing and that the collected data allowed .3 60.61 4.4 13.2 4. confirming that the data gathering tool was very simple and easy to use.1 Mean 4. I had to make hardly any intellectual effort to understand the information about the social networks 4.6 63.81 0.43 3. about 95% of users answered that the time and intellectual effort required to contest KIWI was hardly any (items 1 and 2).7 9. the participants acknowledged an improvement on their awareness.3 4.3 0 Positive (%) A + SA 95.3 13. This seems especially significant when users were registering their interactions (item 5).71 13.4 9.9 56.73 0.4 59.7 17.95 15.2 61.30 9.7 39.3 46. 4.

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