Care as a Lens: An Investigation of Normative Processes in Online Community Moderation

  • Bingjie Yu

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisPhD


Online communities provide spaces and channels for people to share and exchange thoughts, opinions, and information. People gather in an online community with a purpose, but also need to abide by the norms and guidelines of the community. While content moderation in online communities helps maintain the quality of discussion, moderation in online communities can not be easily summarised with responding to problematic behaviours by removing undesired content or people from the community. In this thesis, we aim to explore the normative processes in human-centred moderation in online communities and its relationships with the maintenance and developments of community norms.

We first explore the normative moderation processes by closely working with MetaFilter, an online community that has established moderation culture being praised as the basis of the high quality of content that it produces. We introduce a novel angle using care-as-nurture as a lens to explore normative processes in online community moderation. Care can be treated as an attitude: it is routinely exercised by people in daily life and surfaces when challenging incidents are encountered. This approach allows us to see moderation as a care work beyond just removing undesired content or people from the group, but also proactively engaging with the community to maintain and develop the community norms. We then take our care-as-nurture lens and apply it to explore moderation in Facebook Groups. Our investigation suggests moderation on Facebook Groups expand in other dimensions, challenging the boundary of online communities, as careful moderation activities may happen outside of the online space to where the community expand to.

This thesis addresses the importance of care in online communities, and what it might mean to approach an analysis of online moderation practices by applying care as an attitude of nurture. Although we provided a list of observed care-in-moderation actions as guidance for online community owners, moderators, and platform designers to consult, we argued that moderators should not take a textbook approach to apply them in their communities, rather treating each case with regards to community health and vision. Finally, we consider how CSCW researchers might make use of care-as-nurture when exploring normative processes in online communities and designing support for online communities and in particular for the moderators who care for them.
Date of Award21 Jul 2021
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bath
SupervisorLeon Watts (Supervisor) & Stephen Payne (Supervisor)


  • online communities
  • content moderation
  • care
  • human computer interaction
  • computer supported cooperative work
  • social computing

Cite this