Three strands in a braid: Identity interaction in social software


  • Cynthia Kurtz Independent researcher and consultant



identity, collective goal achievement, collaboration, stigmergy, interaction, open source, complexity, Cynefin framework


This paper brings together three strands of theory about how people interact in order to achieve common goals: aspects of identity (categorical, relational and positional); types of identity interaction (selection, mobilization and commitment); and conditions of tie formation and dissolution (boundary areas on the Cynefin sensemaking framework). The paper explains how the three strands come together to form a "braid" of interaction contexts that influence the needs of those interacting. The braid is used to consider design issues in software that helps people interact, both in a general survey of social software and in specific response to some influential papers in the area. Special attention is given to interactions surrounding the collaborative development of open source software and information.

Author Biography

Cynthia Kurtz, Independent researcher and consultant

Cynthia Kurtz is an independent researcher, writer, software designer and consultant who works on the "listening side" of organizational and community narrative. She helps communities and organizations use narrative and complexity approaches for decision support, sensemaking and conflict resolution.




How to Cite

Kurtz, C. (2009). Three strands in a braid: Identity interaction in social software. First Monday, 14(12).