Shaping the Age of User-Generated Content

Speaker: Amy Bruckman , Georgia Institute of Technology

Date: Friday, November 02, 2007

Time: 2:00 PM to 3:00 PM

Refreshments: 3:45 PM

Public: Yes

Location: Patil/Kiva Seminar Room G449

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Host: Rob Miller, MIT CSAIL

Contact: Michael Bernstein, x3-0452,

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Reminder Subject: TALK: Shaping the Age of User-Generated Content

In the mid 1990s, we began to ask some hopeful questions about the potential of the Internet to empower the individual: Can the Internet help democratize the creation of content? Can users become creators of content, rather than merely recipients? What can people learn through working on personally meaningful projects and sharing them online? This enthusiasm faded a bit by the time of the dot-com bust, and many began to wonder: will it be business-as-usual after all?

But then it started happening. On Wikipedia, thousands of volunteers collaborate to create a shared resource that, while not without flaws, is astonishing in its breadth and speed of adaptation. Furthermore, the process of writing this resource is truly collaborative to a degree that should make any CSCW professional envious. On MySpace, teens create their own web pages, sharing snippets of html and expressing themselves in a quintessentially teenage fashion. Blogs written by ordinary citizens have become influential in politics and culture, almost just as envisioned by science fiction writer Orson Scott Card. User-generated content, it seems, has arrived.

Of course for every thoughtful photo essay shared by a budding young photographer, the Internet has a hundred self-broadcast photos of under-age drinking. What percentage of Internet traffic, one wonders, is devoted to flirting and gossiping? And how much have the last few years increased the world's stockpile of really bad poetry?

In this talk, I'll review the history of user-generated content on the Internet, and present current research in the Electronic Learning Communities (ELC) Lab at Georgia Tech that aims to help shape this phenomenon. Drawing on work in the fields of online community design, CSCW, and CSCL, I'll discuss how we can design Internet-based environments conducive to creativity, collaboration, and learning.

Amy Bruckman is an Associate Professor in the College of Computing at the Georgia Institute of Technology. She and her students in the Electronic Learning Communities (ELC) research group do research on online communities and education. Current projects include Science Online (a wiki-based public science resource in which students learn science content and method by writing for a real audience) and ThinkGame (where students studying games both reflect on their own experiences and have an opportunity to contribute to the new field of academic game studies). Amy is interested in ethical issues in Internet research, and was a member of working groups on this topic organized by AAAS, AoIR, and APA. Amy received her PhD from the MIT Media Lab's Epistemology and Learning group in 1997, her MSVS from the Media Lab's Interactive Cinema Group in 1991, and her BA in physics from Harvard University in 1987. In 1999, she was named one of the 100 top young innovators in science and technology in the world (TR100) by Technology Review magazine. In 2002, she was awarded the Jan Hawkins Award for Early Career Contributions to Humanistic Research and Scholarship in Learning Technologies. More information about her work is available at

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See other events that are part of the HCI Seminar Series Fall 2007.

Created by Linda L. Julien Email at Wednesday, June 19, 2013 at 6:22 AM.