Online norms

It seems to be turning into Christian Crumlish Week here on The Social Enterprise, but the man’s on fire right now! If you’re not reading Mediajunkie, you really should.

Christian has been blogging recently about the various essays written by guest contributors to the book he co-authored with Erin Malone, Designing Social Interfaces. The most recent guest essay is by Gary Burnett, who writes about Explicit and implicit norms in online groups:

Social norms may be defined as a set of values particular to a group, the purpose of which is to provide a sense of balance, a mechanism by which people may gauge what is “normal” and acceptable in a specific context or situation. Such norms are not defined by outside factors; rather, they emerge directly from the activities, motives, and goals of the group itself. Social interfaces function as settings within which such a process may take place. The sociologist Robert K, Merton, in a classic formulation of social norms, distinguished between attitudinal and behavioral norms. However, since attitudes are visible in online settings only through visible behavior – only, that is, through the medium of textual production – it seems more appropriate to think of norms in online interactions in terms of a different distinction. Online social norms can be divided into two types: Explicit and implicit norms.

He then goes on to discuss explicit and implicit norms in more detail, explaining how they are formed and how they affect the community. Read the whole essay, it’s well worth it.