Web Page Categorization: Part 3 - Community vs. Consumption Paradigms
Community vs. Consumption Paradigms
In their paper exploring issues pertaining to virtual communities, Bakardjieva and Feenberg (2002) delineate between two Internet paradigms: the consumption model and the community model. The consumption model is based on a process in which the user individually interacts with software for purposes of information search and retrieval. Initially, this model was used by entities such as libraries, research groups, and academic institutions, strictly to obtain information. As the general user base increased, businesses began implementing the model to sell products online. In the consumption model of the online world, users rarely interact with one another, nor do they sense the presence of others.The Internet is replete with examples of Web sites that could be classified under the consumption model; the Google search engine is one such example because the fundamental process that takes place through the system involves search and retrieval of information. Millions of individual users connect with Google every day, but they do it without ever interacting with one another (3). ;
Web sites that follow the consumption model of the Internet are profoundly influenced by a ‘broadcast paradigm’ of media distribution, which entails a linear distribution of content from a single point of production to multiple points of consumption. This paradigm outlines one of the key characteristics of this model, which is the separation of producer from consumer in the cycle of media distribution.
On the other end of the spectrum, the community model of the online world facilitates interaction between various users. As Feenberg (1989) explains, in the community model “users creatively invent the computer as a medium, not necessarily connected to the norms and functions embodied in the technology by its designers.” The community model has been instrumental in guiding the development of ‘virtual communities.’ Historically, the most notable example of a Web site guided by the community model of the Internet is the WELL, described in detail by Howard Rheingold’s The Virtual Community. More contemporary examples include community-oriented sites like Kuro5hin.org and Slashdot.org. In the context of the community model of the Internet, the lines between producers and consumers of media become blurred. Some have referenced this new form as ‘participatory media’.
Feenberg and Bakardjieva’s two models can be used to help guide a Web page type categorization scheme by asking the question, “Which Internet model does the Web page fit into?” A Web page that contains static information about a health issue such as diabetes could be considered to fit into the consumption model. Its purpose is to distribute a message through a unidirectional, one-to-many flow. Alternatively, a Web page containing a script that allows a user to interact with others to discuss issues related to diabetes could be categorized as fitting into the community model of the Internet.
Although many Web pages are likely to fit into one of these models, there will be situations in which a Web page may contain elements that could be categorized as both “community” and “consumption.” For example, a news article containing a script that allows users to comment on the article could be categorized in both the community and consumption models of the Internet. Depending on the situation, the issue could be solved with the inclusion of a third category that is a hybrid of the two models; alternatively, the question could ask the coder to make a judgment about where the Web page fits best. For instance, the coder could decide that the page would be categorized as a ‘consumption’ page with a community feature.Footnotes
- 3 - The fact that Google’s algorithm which generates the resulting pages may or may not be driven by user activities does not alter the user orientation to the site.
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