Spotlight on Rick Wash: Incentives Through Social Media
Rick Wash enjoys thinking about incentives in social media and how they can be applied to make small but noticeable changes in individuals’ online habits. For instance, perhaps there is a way to influence an online audience to become more involved in the news by posting comments. Through multiple projects, Rick is exploring different methodologies and their outcomes; in one such project, he looks at influencing readers to rate a news piece on a 1-through-5 star system. Taking that a step beyond traditional systems, those reader’s ratings are then ordered by rank on a special “Favorites” page for the user.
His research also extends forward into progressive social media realms, such as crowdfunding. A relatively new idea, users offer monetary support to a specific project or potential news story. Once enough money has been raised, a reporter then investigates the offered topic. Rick is currently exploring the ways in which this can influence journalists and whether or not crowdfunding can be harnessed for other areas.
Knowledge repositories are also of great interest to Assistant Professor Wash – these include Wikipedia and other websites that store large amounts of information. If properly maintained by a large amount of users, the information remains up-to-date and interesting; if not, the website can fall into disuse. Rick thus poses the question, “How can we provide an incentive to motivate people to keep this type of website up-to-date?”
Through his research, Rick found that technological nudges tend to be the most fruitful. If a programmer changes a piece of technology, it is often more cost effective than trying to incentivize individuals – such as giving each person $5 to change a habit or procedure. This has led Rick to his most recent research endeavor: “Influencing Mental Models of Home Security.” Since people have different mental models of what hackers are or can do, this influences their reaction to those perceived threats. He proposes that perhaps social media can be a method to nudge people into the right direction by inviting them to share stories, thus improving their mental models and ultimately make them more secure.
“People tend to ignore experts,” Rick says, “but stories from your friends… that’s something people care about.”
Assistant Professor Wash spends half his time with TISM, and the other half with Journalism. In Fall of 2010, he created MSU’s first Social Media Seminar Series, which invited respected industry and academic leaders to speak about their findings and projects. He hopes to have a Spring 2011 series as well.
Dr. Wash At-A-Glance
- University of Michigan
- Case Western Reserve University
On his bookshelf:
Dr. Wash organized the first MSU Social Media Lecture Series during Fall 2010 and hopes to continue the series in other semesters.
Research interests in one sentence:
Understanding motivations for participating in online social media systems and designing social media systems that influence behavior.
- TC 449: Server Side Web Development
- TC 458: Project Management
- TC 861: Information Networks & Technologies