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Understanding and Engaging Online Audiences

  • Author(s): Savage, Saiph
  • Advisor(s): Hollerer, Tobias
  • et al.

Social media has turned all of us into potential authors of content. This phenomenon has further facilitated the formation of new dynamic audiences -- all of whom center on the data we share. Although there have been several related analyses, most research assumes that the online audience is only an observer. This has led to the design of platforms that are adaptations of traditional marketing tools wherein audiences are surveyed and categorized anonymously and content authors have minimal interaction with them. The types of collaborations produced by such tools are limited.

This research recognizes that the internet has transformed how authors and audiences operate. The thesis explores the dynamics of this emerging ecosystem, from authors, who share personal content with friends and family, to citizen reporters who collaborate with audiences to oppose drug cartels. The thesis demonstrates how to incorporate the understanding of these dynamics into the design of novel platforms. The thesis does this via individual case stories of such systems, for instance the prototype system “Hax,” which dynamically allows people to visualize relevant audiences for sharing and collaborating, or the tool Botivist, which dynamically recruits and assembles collective efforts with online audiences.

The thesis discusses how, together, we can create a future where platforms produce a true symbiosis between authors and audiences to facilitate collective efforts.

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