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“Designing Sustainable Online Support: Examining the Effects of Design Change in Forty-Nine Online Health Support Communities” Selected for 2021 JASIST Best Paper Award

The Association for Information Science & Technology (ASIS&T) is delighted to announce that “Designing Sustainable Online Support: Examining the Effects of Design Change in Forty-Nine Online Health Support Communities” written by Drs. Joshua Introne, Ingrid Erickson, Bryan Semaan, and Sean Goggins, published in Volume 71, Issue 4 of the Journal of the Association for Information Science & Technology (JASIST) is the recipient of the ASIS&T Best JASIST Paper Award for 2021. The award’s purpose is to recognize the best refereed paper published in the volume year of JASIST preceding the ASIS&T annual meeting. JASIST is published by John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

The article was selected as the winner from among a pool of outstanding submissions that were judged based on these criteria: contribution; professional merit; and presentation quality. The paper examines how sociotechnical design changes influence the sustainability of online social support communities for different medical conditions. The paper compares the impact of a single design change on 49 disease-specific health support forums hosted on the WebMD platform, a popular online health information service. A statistical analysis showcases changes in posting patterns before and after the design intervention; a subsequent interpretive examination of forum content reveals how the design change affected members' perceived affordances of the platform. The authors’ findings suggest that, despite differences between communities, the design change triggered a common set of cascading effects: it made it difficult for core users to create and maintain relationships, that led them to ultimately leave the site, and, in turn, reduced the activity drawing newcomers to the platform. Using these findings, they argue that the design of sustainable and robust online communities must account for systemic, sociotechnical dynamics.

Joshua Introne joined the Syracuse iSchool as an Assistant Professor in 2019. Prior to that he was an Assistant Professor of Media and Information at Michigan State University. Professor Introne received his PhD in Computer Science from Brandeis University in 2008. He completed his post-doctoral work at the MIT Center for Collective Intelligence, where he was the Chief Architect of the Climate Colab, a platform designed to crowd-source solutions to climate change. Dr. Introne is a sociotechnical researcher who focuses on improving the collective intelligence of digitally mediated populations in order to contribute to the social good. His work cuts across the fields of information studies, communications research, and HCI, and he has worked in the areas of online health communities, decision support, and social computation.

Ingrid Erickson is an Assistant Professor in the School of Information Studies, Syracuse University. Dr. Erickson’s research centers on the way that mobile devices, ubiquitous digital infrastructures, and artificial intelligence are influencing how we work and communicate with one another, navigate and inhabit spaces, and engage in new types of sociotechnical practices. She considers her work at the nexus of three disciplinary communities: organizational studies, information science & human-centered computing, and science and technology studies. Dr. Erickson received her Ph.D. from the Center for Work, Technology and Organization in the Department of Management Science and Engineering at Stanford University in 2009.

Bryan Semaan is an Assistant Professor in the School of Information Studies at Syracuse University, where he serves as a co-director of the Behavior-Information-Technology-Society (BITS) Lab. He is also a Research Associate with the Institute for Veteran and Military Families (IVMF) and a Research Associate with the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA). Before coming to Syracuse, Dr. Semaan was a post-doctorate in the Department of Information and Computer Sciences at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. He obtained his Ph.D. from the Donald Bren School of Information and Computer Science at the University of California, Irvine (UCI). He is interested in the general areas of computer supported cooperative work (CSCW), human-computer interaction (HCI), and social computing/social media.

Sean Goggins is a professor of electrical engineering and computer science at the University of Missouri, where his research foci are open source software and human-centered data science. Dr. Goggins is a founding member of the Linux Foundation’s working group on community health analytics for open source software CHAOSS. His work is funded by the National Science Foundation, the Sloan Foundation, the Ford Foundation, Mozilla, the U.S. Department of Education, and the U.S. Navy’s Office of Naval Research. Dr. Goggins is also the creator of the Data Science and Analytics master’s program at the University of Missouri. HIs publications focus on understanding how social technologies influence organizational, small group and community dynamics, typically including analysis of electronic trace data from systems combined with the perspectives of people whose behavior is traced.

Upon learning of their article’s selection as the 2021 Best JASIST Paper Award winner, the team said, “This is an incredible honor and we are so very grateful for the recognition. This work spanned years of analysis and benefitted from the guidance and insights of the many colleagues and reviewers who offered feedback along the way. We believe it demonstrates the tremendous value of interdisciplinary research on sociotechnical phenomena, and we hope that it can inspire others to pursue similar inquiries in the future.”

The team will accept the award at the 2021meeting of the Association for Information Science & Technology (ASIS&T) which will be held in Salt Lake City, Utah, October 30 – November 2, 2021.