Implicit Culture Framework for behavior transfer. Definition, implementation and applications

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Aliaksandr Birukou
International Doctorate School in Information and Communication Technologies
DISI, Università di Trento
March 2009

People belong to different communities: business communities, Web 2.0 communities, religious communities, scientific communities, just to name a few. Everyone can belong to and acquire experience in more than one community. This experience is related to the community activity and comes in the form of best practices, behavior, implicit (tacit) knowledge, ways of using artifacts, etc. All these accumulates and evolves over time and slowly becomes a part of the culture of the community. If community activity is very specific, it can be reflected also in the specificity of the community culture. Newcomers in such community might suffer from what is called "culture shock", i.e. a feeling of confusion when not able to grasp what is common for old-timers. This occurs because part of the community culture is not explicit, i.e. not readily available, and it is very hard to extract valuable information from it. Such information can be used for increasing economic and social benefits of the community members (e.g., for performing recurring tasks, easier integration of newcomers, better quality of life). Moreover, the awareness of the community culture could help the community to hand le the turnover of members and structural changes, while preserving the culture. All these introduce the need for transfer of culture between or within communities. 

Currently, there is no domain-independent approach for discovering, representing, transferring, and preserving community culture. Moreover, taking into account the amount of information accumulated by communities, computer aided tools for such representation and transfer are of utmost importance. A key property of such tools should be their non-intrusiveness, i.e. they must be as much integrated in the community practices as possible. Research challenges in solving these problems include, but are not limited to: 1) providing a generic approach for dealing with community culture; 2) designing a framework and computer aided supporting tools for transferring culture; 3) implementing the framework, applying and evaluating it in different domains. 

This thesis addresses the problem of culture transfer. First, we formalize the notion of culture, which includes behavior, knowledge, artifacts, best practices, etc., and provide a classification of problems that involve culture. Second, using this formalism, we propose the Implicit Culture Framework, which is an agent-based framework for transferring behavior between community members or between communities. Then we describe three applications developed using the IC-Service in the domain of recommendation systems: a system for web search, a system for software pattern selection, and a system for web service discovery. Finally, we present the results of the evaluation of the applications with real users and with ad-hoc user models. 

keywordsculture, communities, behavior transfer, agents, recommendation systems