Amy Bruckman Leads Online Deviant Behavior Discussion at CHI 2006

May 23, 2006

ATLANTA (May 24, 2006) -- Sponsored annually by ACM's Special Interest Group on Computer-Human Interaction, CHI is the world’s most comprehensive conference for human-computer interaction. This year, CHI 2006 offered the very best opportunity for everyone who uses computers to interact, inform and inspire one another. One of the most compelling features of this year’s conference was the panel discussion on “Managing Deviant Behavior in Online Communities”.

College of Computing Associate Professor Amy Bruckman served as moderator and one of the panelist focused on the unavoidable fact that, as in the “real world,” there are people online who want to hurt kids. She explored how much risk is acceptable for children of different ages and other issues pertaining to online environments for children. Bruckman founded both MediaMOO (a text-based virtual reality environment or "MUD" designed to be a professional community for media researchers) and MOOSE Crossing (a MUD designed to be a constructionist learning environment for kids).

The fact is, wherever groups of people gather, whether on the Internet or elsewhere in society, norms for appropriate behavior come into play. Unfortunately, not everyone plays by the same rules. What may be an exercise of free speech to one group or individual could be disruptive or hurtful to another. For groups that communicate online, a range of technical and social mechanisms are available to help create a climate that will facilitate the understanding of their mission. For example, the “risk tolerant vs. risk averse” trade-off is where in some environments it may be acceptable to allow a degree of inappropriate behavior and simply respond when users report it, while in others, particularly those that cater to children, inappropriate behavior must not be tolerated at all. Another trade-off is “prevention vs. management” in which strategies for preventing problems or reducing their frequency may be as important as methods of dealing with them once they occur.

Emphasizing audience participation, Bruckman and the panel presented scenarios based on real-life online behavior problems and asked the audience for their input on how to handle the situations. They discussed how designers of online communication systems decide what kind of conduct is acceptable, and how they help ensure that standard is met. Finally, Bruckman and the panel explored the means by which these expectations are communicated to members of the online community as well as the implications of corporate control of content for ideals of free expression.

The panel Bruckman moderated and participated in was composed of experts from media theory, computer-supported collaborative learning, computer-supported cooperative work and online entertainment to explore current issues in this complex research area. In addition to providing a forum for the latest work by researchers and practitioners in HCI, the many plenary and social events at CHI 2006 presented opportunities to network with members of the HCI community and other interested parties who coalesce with the industry. Not only did the conference offer a broad perspective on the complete human-computer interaction landscape, it also assisted its attendees in bringing new ideas back to their own work and community.

For information about Amy Bruckman's research, click here.

For more information about ACM SIGCHI, click here.