Just thought I’d share the proposal I originally submitted:
I’m fascinated by the information behaviour happening in internet forums. You name the topic, and in all likelihood there is a forum out there with a community of users talking about it: lung cancer, wedding planning, kid’s car seats (this one sort of blows my mind), novel writing, and on and on. The interface design is usually not very slick, often built and maintained by community members using open source software. What really intrigues me is the activity around information sharing and fostering a supportive community.
Why the proliferation of internet forums? Is everyone just lonely? Is it the niche appeal — “I’ve found my people!”? Is it a new way of understanding and seeking expertise? If forums are the/ a source of expertise, what is gained and what is lost?
In broader terms, this conversation at THATcamp could also touch on comment culture on news sites, the use of social networking platforms to crowdsource input on an inquiry, the process of becoming a Wikipedia editor and the nature of community (or lack thereof) among editors, and more!
These days my interest in forums is at a finer grain but I left this proposal fairly open to bring in anyone else thinking about online communities or just interested in talking about them. :)
As an aside, I like the Readathon idea. I’ll keep my eyes open for any particularly thoughtful articles / blog posts…