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A Cultural Science of Social Network Markets: Agent-Based Computational Modeling of Online Co-Creative Networks

Banks, John and Potts, Jason (2009) A Cultural Science of Social Network Markets: Agent-Based Computational Modeling of Online Co-Creative Networks. In: Proceedings of the WebSci'09: Society On-Line, 18-20 March 2009, Athens, Greece. (In Press)

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Abstract

Web Science recognises that rigorously interdisciplinary approaches are needed to grapple with the transformational dynamism associated with online digital media. In this paper we combine the in-close detailed analysis of ethnographic participatory observation research with agent-based computational modeling to explore and model emergent online co-creative relations as social-network markets. Media consumers increasingly participate in the process of designing, producing and marketing media content and experiences. Over the past few years we have seen the rise of user-generated content and user-led innovation as significant cultural and economic phenomenon (Jenkins 2006; Von Hippel 2006; Bruns 2008; Shirky 2008). We propose that co-creative media culture occurs when a non-trivial component of the design, development, production, marketing and distribution of media product proceeds through the direct involvement of consumers or users. In the past decade these consumer-producer interactions have evolved to such scale and depth that they are now an increasingly significant source of both cultural and economic value creation. But we now need to move beyond a celebratory marveling at the phenomenon of consumer co-creativity. How can we think systematically about this phenomenon? How should we understand and model these emerging behaviours and practices that are increasingly organised and coordinated through online social networks? This phenomenon of consumer co-creation is often framed in terms of whether either economic market forces or socio-cultural non-market forces ultimately dominate (Benkler 2006; Bruns 2008; Shirky 2008). We propose an alternate model of consumer co-creation in terms of co-evolution between markets and non-markets. Drawing on consultancy ethnographic research undertaken throughout 2007 with Auran games, an Australian based games developer, we explore the front-line micro practices and motivations involved in online games development. This research followed and informed Auran’s online community management and social networking strategies for Fury, a competitive player versus player (PvP), massively multiplayer online game released in October 2007. Undertaking this research involved working closely for extended periods throughout 2007 with members of Auran’s online community relations team, Fury’s developers, and Auran senior management. The researcher also participated in pre-release play testing of Fury, joining in extensive play and feedback sessions with the Fury gamers, as well as interviewing gamers participating in this co-creative relationship with Auran. This research explored the relationships between Auran’s professional developers and a network of game players and testers who provided extensive feedback and design input. We work from this ethnographic material to derive two theoretical explanations for consumer co-creation that avoid the either/or distinctions of market/non-market and intrinsic/extrinsic motivations that have seemingly taken root about this issue. Our explanation is in terms of co-evolving market and non-market contexts that draws in complex interrelationships between multiple contexts, incentives and motivations, and the emergence of markets. This fundamentally involves a co-evolutionary dynamic of both economic and cultural change. We frame this in terms of the theory of multiple games (Page and Bednar 2007) and the theory of social network markets (Potts et al 2008; Banks and Humphreys 2008; Banks and Potts). We conclude that consumer co-creation is indeed complex, but in ways that relate to both emergent market expectations and the evolution of markets, not to the transcendence of markets. We then consider the potential to further refine and elaborate this social network markets model by combining complexity science, evolutionary theory and ethnographic research practice in the context of exploring co-creativity through agent-based computational modeling (Axelrod 1997; Epstein 2006; Miller and Page 2007; Sawyer 2005). We propose that macro socio-economic patterns such as social network market behaviours are emergent phenomenon in which the characteristics of the system as a whole arise endogenously out of the micro-level interactions of agents and their environments. Agent-based computational modeling provides a tool for exploring and analysing the emergence of co-creative relations as an online social-network market phenomenon. As Joshua Epstein (2006: xii) proposes, this generative approach to social and cultural phenomenon may provide scientific explanations by facilitating the process of constructing and refining scientific models. This paper also contributes to debates about what counts as an accepted standard of explanation and research in the humanities and social sciences. Following John Hartley’s (2008) provocation that disciplines such as Cultural Studies need to transform into a Cultural Science, we argue that ethnographic case studies, while excelling at in-close micro analysis of local specificities, often fail to reach for adequate macro level conceptualisations of the phenomenon under investigation. Hartley argues for a more rigorous and systematic response to the generativity of popular culture that we see playing out in the phenomenon of online co-creativity. Our paper contributes to this Cultural Science approach by combining the in-close detail of ethnographic research practice with the model building potential of agent based computational simulation. The ethnographic description assists us to identify the “micro-specifications – ethnographically plausible rules of agent behaviour” (Epstein 2006:13) that will then provide the foundation for the computational model from which the emergent social-network market patterns are generated. References Axelrod, Robert. (1997). ‘The Dissemination of Culture: A Model with Local Convergence and Global Polarization.’ Journal of Conflict Resolution 41: 203–26. Banks, J. and Humphreys S (2008) ‘The Labour of User Co-Creators: Emergent Social Network Markets?’ Convergence: The International Journal of Research into New Media Technologies. 14.4: 401-418 Banks J. and J. Potts (2008) 'Co-creating online games: A co-evolutionary model' CCi Unpublished Working Paper, QUT. Benkler, Y (2006) The wealth of networks. Yale University Press: Yale. Bruns, A (2008) Blogs, Wikipedia, Second Life, and Beyond. From Production to Produsage. Peter Lang: New York. Epstein, J.M. (2006). Generative Social Science: Studies in Agent-Based Computational Modeling. Princeton University Press: Princeton. Hartley, J (2008) “From the Consciousness Industry to Creative Industries: Consumer-created content, social network markets and the growth of knowledge” In Jennifer Holt and Alisa Perren (eds) Media Industries: History, Theory and Methods. Blackwell: Oxford. Jenkins, H (2006) Convergence culture: Where old and new media collide. New York University Press: New York. Miller, J.H, Page, S.E. (2007). Complex Adaptive Systems: An Introduction to Computational Models of Social Life. Princeton University Press Page, S., Bendnar, S. (2007) ‘Can game(s) theory explain culture? The emergence of cultural behaviour within multiple games’ Rationality and Society, 19(1): 65–97 Potts, J., Cunningham, S., Hartley, J., Ormerod, P. (2008) ‘Social network markets: A new definition of the creative industries’ Journal of Cultural Economics. 32: 167-185. Sawyer, K. (2005) Social Emergence: Societies as Complex Systems. Cambridge University Press: Cambridge. Shirky C (2008) Here comes everybody. Allen Lane: New York. Von Hippel, E (2006). Democratizing Innovation. MIT Press: Boston, Mass.

Item Type:Conference or Workshop Item (Poster)
Uncontrolled Keywords:Consumer co-creation, social networks, agent based computational modeling, games studies, participatory culture
Subjects:Web Science Events > Web Science 2009
ID Code:157
Deposited By: W S T Administrator
Deposited On:24 Jan 2009 08:45
Last Modified:25 Oct 2011 16:11

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