Howard T. Welser

Ohio University, Athens, Ohio, United States

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Publications (17)5.49 Total impact

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    ABSTRACT: Although the social exchange paradigm has produced a vibrant research program, the theoretical tradition is rarely used to model the structure of social networks outside of experiments and simulations. To address this limitation, we derive power-dependence predictions about network structure and geographic mobility-the outcomes of power-use-and test these predictions using complete data on competition networks and travel schedules among amateur sports teams. Poisson regression and exponential random graph models provide strong support for our predictions. The findings illustrate exchange dynamics in which status resources desired by teams, coupled with the availability of geographically proximal alternatives, create power and dependence that dictate where and with whom teams compete. Although evidence supports Georg Simmel's classic proposition that networks form on the basis of values and propinquity, we show that this complex dynamic is conditional on power and dependence. We conclude by discussing implications and directions for future research.
    Social Science Research 05/2014; 45C:131-151. · 1.27 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Virtual teams and other online groups can find it challenging to establish norms that allow them to effectively balance task and relational aspects of their discussions. Yet, in our reliance on organizational and team theories, small group scholars have overlooked the potential for learning from examples offered by online communities. Theories of deliberation in small groups offer scholars a way to assess such discussion-centered self-governance in online groups. The study operationalizes the conceptual definition of deliberative discussion offered by Gastil and Black (2008) to examine the small group discussions that undergird policy-making processes in a well-established online community, Wikipedia. Content analysis shows that these discussions demonstrated a relatively high level of problem analysis and providing of information, but results were mixed in the group’s demonstration of respect, consideration, and mutual comprehension. Network visualizations reveal structural patterns that can be useful in examining equality, influence, and group member roles. The combination of measures has implications for future research in deliberative discussion and virtual teamwork.
    Small Group Research 10/2011; 42(5):595-634. · 1.35 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: There are numerous indirect ways in which socioeconomic status (SES) can advantage or disadvantage people in developing social capital. Specifically, SES affects the access individuals have to beneficial resources that indirectly affects the social capital benefits individuals receive from personal and group social networks. With the advent of social network sites like Facebook, the ability to quantify and measure the effects of SES on social capital benefits is possible to a much greater degree than ever before. This study of undergraduate students focuses on the relationship between SES and social capital. We examine the relationship between SES and three structural measures of students' social capital using online social network data: general social capital (network size), bridging social capital (number of clusters), and bonding social capital (average degree). According to our results, higher SES relates to larger and denser networks, but not to networks with more clusters. These findings suggest that SES is not related to greater opportunities for networking, but better capitalization of existing network contexts. In addition to the novel substantive contribution, this paper offers a methodological advance in the structural study of social capital, which has previously been limited in size or complexity due to recall.
    Information Communication and Society 06/2011; Communication & Society(Vol. 14):529-549. · 0.70 Impact Factor
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    Patrick Underwood, Howard T. Welser
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    ABSTRACT: The series of protests against the Church of Scientology known as "Project Chanology" marks the emergence of an important form of contemporary protest movement defined by networked internal structures and pervasive memetic culture. Such a protest movement is highly dynamic- rapidly adapting to changing challenges and contextual settings. This cultural innovation is made possible by the increasing digital mediation of social life. In the following analysis, we trace the unique structural contours of Chanology, investigate how participants leveraged a unique internal structure and the memetic environment of the internet to grow, and conclude with an explanation of why the novel modes of protest used in Chanology contributed to its success and why these forms of protest are likely to proliferate in an increasingly digitally mediated environment. From a theoretical standpoint, Project Chanology both affirms and challenges conventional conceptions of social movements. The utility of Chwe's network analytical approach to the problems of coordination in social movements is also demonstrated.
    iConference 2011, Inspiration, Integrity, and Intrepidity, Seattle, Washington, USA, February 8-11, 2011; 01/2011
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    iConference 2011, Inspiration, Integrity, and Intrepidity, Seattle, Washington, USA, February 8-11, 2011; 01/2011
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    ABSTRACT: Both online and off, people frequently perform particular social roles. These roles organize behavior and give structure to positions in local networks. As more of social life becomes embedded in online systems, the concept of social role becomes increasingly valuable as a tool for simplifying patterns of action, recognizing distinct user types, and cultivating and managing communities. This paper standardizes the usage of the term 'social role' in online community as a combination of social psychological, social structural, and behavioral attributes. Beyond the conceptual definition, we describe measurement and analysis strategies for identifying social roles in online community. We demonstrate this process in two domains, Usenet and Wikipedia, identifying key social roles in each domain. We conclude with directions for future research, with a particular focus on the analysis of communities as role ecologies.
    System Sciences, 2009. HICSS '09. 42nd Hawaii International Conference on; 02/2009
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    ABSTRACT: Community based question and answer systems have been promoted as Web 2.0 solutions to the problem of finding expert knowledge. This promise depends on systemspsila capacity to attract and sustain experts capable of offering high quality, factual answers. Content analysis of dedicated contributorspsila messages in the live QnA system found: (1) few contributors who focused on providing technical answers (2) a preponderance of attention paid to opinion and discussion, especially in non-technical threads. This paucity of experts raises an important general question: how do the social affordances of a site alter the ecology of roles found there? Using insights from recent research in online community, we generate a series of expectations about how social affordances are likely to alter the role ecology of online systems.
    Proceedings IEEE CSE'09, 12th IEEE International Conference on Computational Science and Engineering, August 29-31, 2009, Vancouver, BC, Canada; 01/2009
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    42st Hawaii International International Conference on Systems Science (HICSS-42 2009), Proceedings (CD-ROM and online), 5-8 January 2009, Waikoloa, Big Island, HI, USA; 01/2009
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    ABSTRACT: Social media communities (e.g. Wikipedia, Flickr, Live Q&A) give rise to distinct types of content, foremost among which are relational content (discussion, chat) and factual content (answering questions, problem-solving). Both users and researchers are increasingly interested in developing strategies that can rapidly distinguish these types of content. While many text-based and structural strategies are possible, we extend two bodies of research that show how social context, and the social roles of answerers can predict content type. We test our framework on a dataset of manually labeled contributions to Microsoft's Live Q&A and find that it reliably extracts factual and relational messages from the data.
    Proceedings of the Third International Conference on Weblogs and Social Media, ICWSM 2009, San Jose, California, USA, May 17-20, 2009; 01/2009
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    ABSTRACT: This study investigates how heavily active contributors affect recruitment and retention in online social systems. We find that core enthusiasts are more successful recruiters, their recruits are more likely to become enthusiasts, and interacting with enthusiasts makes users less likely to exit the system. We also find evidence that strong dyadic ties between non-enthusiasts help extend active careers in online social systems. Implications include considerations for community growth and retention based on the influence of these core users.
    Proceedings of the Second International Conference on Weblogs and Social Media, ICWSM 2008, Seattle, Washington, USA, March 30 - April 2, 2008; 01/2008
  • H. T. Welser, E. Gleave, D. S. Vaughan
    Rationality and Society - RATION SOC. 01/2007; 19(2):171-202.
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    H. T. Welser, E. Gleave, D. Fisher, M. Smith
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    ABSTRACT: Social roles in online discussion forums can be described by patterned characteristics of communication between network members which we conceive of as 'structural signatures'. This paper uses visualization methods to reveal these structural signatures and regression analysis to confirm the relationship between these signatures and their associated roles in Usenet newsgroups. Our analysis focuses on distinguishing the signatures of one role from others, the role of "answer people". Answer people are individuals whose dominant behavior is to respond to questions posed by other users. We found that answer people predominantly contribute one or a few messages to discussions initiated by others, are disproportionately tied to relative isolates, have few intense ties and have few triangles in their local networks. OLS regression shows that these signatures are strongly correlated with role behavior and, in combination, provide a strongly predictive model for identifying role behavior (R2=.72). To conclude, we consider strategies for further improving the identification of role behavior in online discussion settings and consider how the development of a taxonomy of author types could be extended to a taxonomy of newsgroups in particular and discussion systems in general.
    Journal of Social Structure. 01/2007; 8(2):1-31.
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    D. Fisher, M Smith, H.T. Welser
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    ABSTRACT: Understanding the social roles of the members a group can help to understand the social context of the group. We present a method of applying social network analysis to support the task of characterizing authors in Usenet newsgroups. We compute and visualize networks created by patterns of replies for each author in selected newsgroups and find that second-degree ego-centric networks give us clear distinctions between different types of authors and newsgroups. Results show that newsgroups vary in terms of the populations of participants and the roles that they play. Newsgroups can be characterized by populations that include question and answer newsgroups, conversational newsgroups, social support newsgroups, and flame newsgroups. This approach has applications for both researchers seeking to characterize different types of social cyberspaces as well as participants seeking to distinguish interaction partners and content authors.
    System Sciences, 2006. HICSS '06. Proceedings of the 39th Annual Hawaii International Conference on; 02/2006
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    T. Lento, H. T. Welser, L. Gu, M. Smith
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    ABSTRACT: Are people who remain active as webloggers more socially con- nected to other users? How are the number and nature of social ties related to people's willingness to continue contributing con- tent to a weblog? This study uses longitudinal data taken from Wallop, a weblogging system developed by Microsoft Research, to explore patterns of user activity. In its year long operation Wallop hosted a naturally occurring opportunity for cultural com- parison, as it developed a majority Chinese language using popu- lation (despite the English language focus of the system). This allows us to consider whether or not language communities have different social network characteristics that vary along different activity levels. Logistic regression models and network visualiza- tions reveal two key findings. The first is that not all ties are equal. Although a count of incoming comments appears to be a significant predictor of retention, it loses its predictive strength when strong ties created by repeated, reciprocal interaction and ties from other dedicated webloggers are considered. Second, the higher rate of retention among the Chinese language users is partly explained by that population's greater ability to draw in participants with pre-existing social ties. We conclude with con- siderations for weblogs and directions for future research.
    3rd Annual Workshop on the Weblogging Ecosystem. 01/2006;
  • Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication. 01/2005; 10(4):00-00.
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    ABSTRACT: Usenet is a complex socio-technical phenomenon, containing vast quantities of information. The sheer scope and complexity make it a challenge to understand the many dimensions across which people and communication are interlinked. In this work, we present visualizations of several aspects and scales of Usenet that combine to highlight the range of variation found in newsgroups. We examine variations within hierarchies, newsgroups, authors, and social networks. We find a remarkable diversity, with clear variations that mark starting points for mapping the broad sweep of behavior found in this and other social cyberspaces. Our findings provide the basis for initial recommendations for those cultivating, managing, contributing, or consuming collectively constructed conversational content.
    Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication 01/2005; 10. · 2.17 Impact Factor