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Title: Theoretical and Empirical Modeling of Identity and Sentiments in Collaborative Groups
Theoretical and Empirical Modeling of Identity and Sentiments in Collaborative Groups (THEMIS.COG) was an interdisciplinary research collaboration of computer scientists and social scientists from the University of Waterloo (Canada), Potsdam University of Applied Sciences (Germany), and Dartmouth College (USA). This white paper summarizes the results of our research at the end of the grant term. Funded by the Trans-Atlantic Platform’s Digging Into Data initiative, the project aimed at theoretical and empirical modeling of identity and sentiments in collaborative groups. Understanding the social forces behind self-organized collaboration is important because technological and social innovations are increasingly generated through informal, distributed processes of collaboration, rather than in formal organizational hierarchies or through market forces. Our work used a data-driven approach to explore the social psychological mechanisms that motivate such collaborations and determine their success or failure. We focused on the example of GitHub, the world’s current largest digital platform for open, collaborative software development. In contrast to most, purely inductive contemporary approaches leveraging computational techniques for social science, THEMIS.COG followed a deductive, theory-driven approach. We capitalized on affect control theory, a mathematically formalized theory of symbolic interaction originated by sociologist David R. Heise and further advanced in previous work by some of more » the THEMIS.COG collaborators, among others. Affect control theory states that people control their social behaviours by intuitively attempting to verify culturally shared feelings about identities, social roles, and behaviour settings. From this principle, implemented in computational simulation models, precise predictions about group dynamics can be derived. It was the goal of THEMIS.COG to adapt and apply this approach to study the GitHub collaboration ecosystem through a symbolic interactionist lens. The project contributed substantially to the novel endeavor of theory development in social science based on large amounts of naturally occurring digital data. « less
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