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Title: Sociality, community and productivity in Virtual Citizen Science
Author: Reeves, Neal
Awarding Body: University of Southampton
Current Institution: University of Southampton
Date of Award: 2019
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Virtual Citizen Science describes web-based crowdsourcing activities which recruit volunteers to complete microtasks for scientific research. VCS methodologies have been applied to diverse research challenges, from identifying neurons in MRI-scan images of the optic nerve, to morphologically classifying images of galaxies. Initiatives generally rely on participants’ intrinsic motivations to encourage contributions, but increasingly designers are turning to additional mechanisms – including the use of online community features and discussion platforms such as forums. However, the influence of these features on participant engagement are still poorly understood. Drawing on a pragmatist, mixed-methods approach, this thesis explores the relationship between these social features within task and discussion elements of projects, to understand the influence of such features on volunteer productivity and project efficiency. A literature review of five transdisciplinary databases was conducted to identify design principles, motivations and social features associated with VCS approaches. This was then followed with a review of 48 VCS projects, to better understand the online community features within current VCS initiatives. To understand and clarify these findings, interviews were conducted with six members of the EyeWire project design team. Analysis of competitions in EyeWire demonstrated a relationship between task sociality and increased productivity and activity within the project. Finally, an analysis of two high-pressure VCS projects explores how periods of heavy productivity affect discussion activity. This research contributes to the understanding of motivational factors and design affordances within Virtual Citizen Science and similar crowdsourcing initiatives.
Supervisor: Simperl, Elena Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available