Analysing community interaction

30Oct07

In 1970, R. F. Bales released a book titled ‘Personality and Interpersonal Behaviour’. It dealt with the communication patterns between a group of people. This has since been used to analyse online communities using what is commonly known as Bales’ Interaction Process Analysis (or IPA). IPA contains 12 different categories which can be used to breakdown the communication within a given environment.

It was interesting to notice when comparing the different communities which I visit just how much they differed from one another using the IPA. On social network sites such as Facebook, the majority of the discussions, as I expected, fell under the social-emotional heading at number 2 (Shows tension release, laughs, jokes, shows satisfaction). What surprised me, however, was that the majority of the communities I am part of followed the same trend.

Despite being dedicated to a specific video game, the discussion forum PESGaming.com also fell under category 2 when analysing a number of topics. It seemed although people had gathered in the community for shared enjoyment of a video game, once they were there they wanted to talk socially as opposed to discussing the game its self. The only community where I found predominantly task orientated topics was SitePoint.com – but even then, over a third of the topics I looked at began as task orientated but quickly turned social and falling under the same category as Facebook.  This thread is a good example of this happening.

Certainly from my own observations, the web seems to becoming much more of a social environment as opposed to task related; people are using the Internet as a second form of socialising.

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