The Reader-to-Leader Framework: Motivating Technology-Mediated Social Participation

This paper provides a framework for technology-mediated social participation.

Jennifer Preece
Ben Shneiderman
Author(s) Organizational Affiliation
University of Maryland
Publication Year
Resource Type
Informational Material
Number of Pages
Product Type

Billions of people participate in online social activities. Most users participate as readers of discussion boards, searchers of blog posts, or viewers of photos. A fraction of users become contributors of user-generated content by writing consumer product reviews, uploading travel photos, or expressing political opinions. Some users move beyond such individual efforts to become collaborators, forming tightly connected groups with lively discussions whose outcome might be a Wikipedia article or a carefully edited YouTube video. A small fraction of users becomes leaders, who participate in governance by setting and upholding policies, repairing vandalized materials, or mentoring novices. We analyze these activities and offer the Reader-to-Leader Framework with the goal of helping researchers, designers, and managers understand what motivates technology-mediated social participation. This will enable them to improve interface design and social support for their companies, government agencies, and non-governmental organizations. These improvements could reduce the number of failed projects, while accelerating the application of social media for national priorities such as healthcare, energy sustainability, emergency response, economic development, education, and more.

What the experts say

The article provides an analytical framework for observing online social interactions. It provides an excellent summary of the research related to technology-mediated social interactions. The resource is most relevant to instructors who are offering online adult education classes or who are moderating online discussion groups. Online adult education instructors might find the article useful in analyzing group interactions among their students. It might help them move their students from being lurkers to active participants to group leaders. Although, most of the studies that are cited are not set in an instructional framework, instructors might learn some useful strategies in analyzing the interactions of their group. The framework would also be useful to adult basic education discussion lists, such as those found on the LiteracyTent and on LinkedIn, and in adult basic education groups within Ning sites such as Flipped Learning, or Wiggio sites, such as the Mlearning Wiggio. It might also be interesting to individuals as they think about their own participation in the online discussion groups in LINCS.

The single most useful features are the diagram of the framework on page 16, and the descriptions of the progressive roles that follow it on pages 16-24. The tables that list the Usability and Sociability Factors are particularly useful to readers because they summarize the research that has been cited. The impressive reference list is also useful to those who want to read more research in this area. In fact, the article as a whole offers an excellent summary of the research in technology-mediated social interaction. The website examples that are included, although a bit hard to read, are interesting.

The Reader-to-Leader framework described in this resource is useful; however, primarily in the context of adult education social media, community of practice, or discussion websites. It would be interesting to have some of these websites participate in empirical studies on what encourages or discourages movement from reader to contributor to collaborator to leader, and how to increase the percentages of those who become contributors, collaborators, and leaders.


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