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Data Mining Conversational Cyberspace

Conversational social cyberspaces are repositories of messages organized into chains of turns and replies. These spaces are among the most popular aspects of online usage. Online conversation spaces like email lists, newsgroups, and web boards, are rich social environments that are increasingly important spaces for civic discourse. Most conversational social cyberspaces suffer from the problem of "too much" and are vulnerable to disruption by a small minority. Sociological studies of these spaces are hampered by the limits of existing tools and interfaces. Social cyberspaces are in their early development and still lack many elements of the infrastructure of physical interaction spaces.

Information about basic social properties of online environments, their size, activity, and composition of their populations, for example, are entirely missing or difficult to construct with existing tools. Mutual awareness is a necessary component of most social institutions. In its absence many social cyberspaces become noisy conflictual spaces of limited value. Tools for navigating and evaluating the content found in social cyberspaces that are based on the analysis of social history can help support social institutions by encouraging accountability and highlighting the future value of identity and reputation. Built on mutual awareness, the resulting institutions may be more resistant to invasion and disruption. These tools serve the additional function of providing analysts with empirical data that covers a broad scope of social cyberspaces, allowing the formation of maps and measures that can answer basic questions about the dynamics, structure and variation of these novel interaction environments.