Digital community design

Exploring the role of mobile social software in the process of digital convergence

Doctoral thesis by Giuseppe Lugano. Jyväskylä Studies in Computing 114, University of Jyväskylä 2010.


This study covers the theme of digital community design from the perspective of mobile social software (MoSoSo) and within the broader context of digital convergence.

Digital communities and MoSoSo are key products of digital convergence, a multifaceted phenomenon encompassing the technological, economic, cultural and social dimensions. Digital convergence contributes to the evolution of community by the integration of the offline, online and mobile dimensions in a hybrid social space. In the hybrid social space, digital communities are structured, perceived and experienced as mobile social networks through MoSoSo.

So far, the potential of MoSoSo and mobile social networking has not been realized because there is a lack of a common conceptual framework on which to ground design solutions. The shortcomings of MoSoSo are addressed in this thesis by applying conceptual analysis and design thinking to develop a conceptualization and a holistic model of MoSoSo design. Support policies to MoSoSo adoption are also discussed.

The findings of the study show that MoSoSo can be defined as a class of mobile applications whose scope is to support informal mobile social networking. In this way, MoSoSo design can be enhanced by grounding MoSoSo on its three main building blocks, namely the user profile, mobile social network and social algorithms. The individual level of the user profile concerns the inference and representation of user psychological knowledge; the social level of mobile social networks deals with the sensing and processing of their evolving structure; finally, the interaction level of social algorithms uses the input of the other two levels to dynamically personalize MoSoSo for contextual interaction, while supporting the user’s management of incoming and outgoing flows of social information and facilitating social interconnections on the basis of homophily and heterophily.

This model conceives MoSoSo as a general purpose social platform, which allow users to attain individual and/or collective purposive action goals through access to social resources embedded in mobile social networks. In this manner, MoSoSo plays an enabling role and has an emancipatory function for digital communities because it provides, through community- generated services (CGS), an increased capability to drive change. By emphasizing grassroots social action, MoSoSo enhances the resilience of individual lives, societies and businesses, which can withstand periods of transformation thanks to a stronger network-based civil society consisting of interconnected self-organizing digital communities.

Ultimately, the key role of MoSoSo consists in exploiting digital convergence for the realization of sustainable futures. This goal does not rely only on its conceptualization and design model, but also on how a set of principles of digital community design will be followed and support policies agreed by all relevant stakeholders.

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