Shantanu Tilak, Marvin Evans, Ziye Wen, and Michael Glassman
The Ohio State University
In the Information Age, social media tools produce cybernetic feedback loops that respond to the human agency on the fly, making it important to equip individuals with skills to navigate these feedback loops and traverse through a society where polarised online debates about controversial issues like climate change and vaccines are common. Educational environments become safe, norm-driven environments to equip individuals with these digital skills. In this mixed methods study, we suggest using a cybernetic interaction design approach to mimic the ongoing effects of the cybernetic feedback loops of social media and equip students with the agency to use such tools to create cohesive learning communities. A participant observer rewired in-class live chats on the Reddit social media platform in a graduate psychology class of 17 students on the fly based on weekly social network analysis of live chats and qualitative field notes taken to construct a brief ethnography of lectures that followed live chats. Discussions about collected data led to restructuring the format of the live chat with regard to the involvement of the instructor, the number of concurrent groups, and group selection processes. Results from our weekly mixed methods analyses suggest that rewiring the live discussions solidified the likelihood for closed ties between n>2 agents to emerge and for each agent to be connected with other users who were popular in the network. Our inquiry suggests that cybernetic interaction design may be used to create a cohesive learning community that could co-construct ideas in technology-assisted college classrooms through critical discourse, an important skill required to navigate an information-saturated society.
KEYWORDS: network science, interaction design, cybernetics, curriculum design