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Knowledge Evolution in Social Media: Understanding the Effects of Website Designs on the Selection of User-Generated Content

Morales-Martinez, Gabriela (2018) Knowledge Evolution in Social Media: Understanding the Effects of Website Designs on the Selection of User-Generated Content. PhD thesis, University of Sheffield.

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Thesis Gabriela Morales Martinez.pdf
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Purpose – This thesis aims to understand how the designs of social media sites affect the transmission of user-generated content, through the impact that different set-ups have on identity, groups and relationships, and consequently on the choices of users. Design/Methodology – A quasi-experiment is set up, consisting of three experimental conditions on an existing online platform. The research uses a mixed- and multiplemethod approach where the primary sources of data are online interactions and a questionnaire that, inter alia, mapped participants’ personal networks, with focus groups used to obtain more in-depth information about the choices made by participants. The examination comprises descriptive and inferential statistics, social network, clustering, sequence, and thematic analyses. Notably, sequence analysis is applied for the first time to the study of social media and ratings. Findings – A key result is that the different designs of websites act as a frame to the content shared, i.e. online users make different choices depending on how the information is presented. Specifically, different designs affect choices because of: 1) the impact that groups and relationships have on identity management; 2) the type and strength of groupbiases; and 3) transmission errors. Most importantly, the online presence of individuals’ real-life relationships affects how content is perceived and evaluated. Contributions – This research adds to theory by conceptualising the process of variation, selection and retention of knowledge in social media and creating a model to study selection through choice-making. Also, it contributes by increasing the understanding of how certain website designs can increase/decrease transmission errors and biases, hence affecting the evolution of knowledge and the ‘wisdom of the crowd’. Regarding methodology, this thesis contributes by conducting one of the most complete studies ever performed in online environments, combining different methods of data collection and analysis. As regards practice, the research identifies important design considerations for website developers. Further, concerning policy, the study presents a reflection on frames as ethical acts, and outlines a number of questions that should serve as a basis for debate among policymakers. Future research – The thesis concludes by outlining seven possible lines of research. This work is expected to trigger the interest of scholars, practitioners, and policymakers in understanding the relevance of appropriate designs for social media sites.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: Please cite: Morales-Martinez, G., 2018. Knowledge Evolution in Social Media: Understanding the Effects of Website Designs on the Selection of User-Generated Content. Ph.D. thesis. The University of Sheffield.
Keywords: Knowledge evolution; VSR; social media; UGC; eWOM; ratings; reviews; PeerWise; online education; VLE; choices; biases
Academic Units: The University of Sheffield > Faculty of Social Sciences (Sheffield) > Management School (Sheffield)
Depositing User: Ms Gabriela Morales
Date Deposited: 21 Dec 2018 11:51
Last Modified: 21 Dec 2018 11:51
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/22495

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