Reflecting Upon The Challenges Of Building Online Community, Or: "A Techie's Guide To The Help Dummies Need'

Document Type

Conference Proceeding


Murdoch University


Faculty of Education And Arts


School of Communication and Arts / Centre for Research in Entertainment, Arts, Technology, Education and Communications




Australian Research Council

Grant Number

ARC Number : LP0990807, ARC Number : LP0453946


Costello, L & Green, L., (2012). Reflecting Upon The challenges of building online community, or: "a techie's guide to the help dummies need'. In Proceedings of the Eighth International Conference on Cultural Attitudes towards Technology and Communication (CATaC) 2012, Aarhus, Denmark. Original proceedings available here


This paper is less about the potentially therapeutic use of online community and more about communication between members of a research team: between those with digital/technical expertise, and those without. Academics are usually good at collaborating, and at seeking help, so it is not generally seen as a problem if an inter-disciplinary team needs to be assembled in pursuit of a shared research goal. Such collaboration requires a common language, however, and this paper is about the realisation that a shared language such that lay people can talk to technologists, and technologists to lay people, is not easily acquired. Indeed, this is an account of cultural attitudes towards technology and communication in the microcosm of the relationship between a social science researcher without web design skills and expert digital support staff who are technically excellent and used to working with researchers in their field. At the core of the discussion lies the notion of the competent brief, and the question about whose competency is reflected in that brief. Is it sufficient that the brief be conceptual and descriptive to a level that would persuade a granting agency to part with their money, for example, since that was the level at which the social science researcher began? Or does the brief have to be as highly technically literate as the website-constructing audience who plan to work from it? Is it appropriate to expect a digital professional to work from a descriptive brief and translate it into a technological one? If not, where can the parties concerned find an appropriate translator ready and skilled enough to correct the misalignment of expectations? This paper addresses that story.

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