Online Community -- The Near Death Experience - Masks and Miscommunication
Computing, Health and Science
School of Exercise, Biomedical and Health Science
Australian Research Council
ARC Number : LP0453946
This paper represents a detailed case study of an inter-member dispute occurring in a moderated website operated as part of a research programme between the National Heart Foundation (WA Division) and Edith Cowan University. It raises issues of ethics and accountability, and of the genuinely intense communication that develops between some people in online community. As in real life, communication has either positive or negative implications – and misunderstandings, miscommunication and disputes can quickly escalate. In the context of a community that is also a research project, however, the matters of institutional risk, ethics clearance and legal liability complicate the issues and decisions have to be taken that are carefully noted and justified. In this example, the majority of members (only a few were involved in the dispute) saw the escalation as a potential threat to the continuation of the community and intervened to assist resolution. Although ‘slow burning’ disputes can take a long time to erupt (this case study had a three month genesis before it reached crisis point), and although it should not be assumed that resolution is achieved instantly, the community appears to be regaining its equilibrium.