Gratitude as socialization

In Online Communities we recently spent a class focused on designing for gratitude. The task for the day was to “Give at least one Wikipedian who is not associated with our class some Wikilove. (Of course, you can also share as much Wikilove as you wish, in or out of class.)” The students had some interesting feedback about the exercise.

  1. Some wished there was a way to thank all the contributors to an article. I imagine this would be difficult given the often large number of contributors and varied levels of contribution. (I wondered if it was possible to do so for a WikiProject but apparently it is not.)
  2. I was surprised that a couple students expressed hesitancy about the task because they didn’t feel Wikipedian enough to be assessing others’ contributions and expressing gratitude. Hence, even though they found the kittens less meaningful, they were more comfortable sending kittens because it seemed like a lower bar than sending a barnstar.

Nathan Mattias, our guest speaker, noted that other communities do have norms in which first finding and expressing gratitude was an important part of the socialization process. In his post on the story sharing site Cowbird he wrote:

Jonathan protects the Cowbird aesthetic from early adopters through an invitation-only registration system and an onboarding process. New users are encouraged to view example stories, “love” 20 current stories, and join some sagas before posting their own story.—Can we create Solitude on the Web? Jonathan Harris on Cowbird

Because of this, I’m going to be retaining the exercise and recommend it be considered for the template syllabus of other classes; I imagine it furthers socialization, identification, and commitment—even if seeming presumptuous to the students at first.

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