Small Group Virtual Dynamics Experiments
Beyond their common use for interpersonal communication, chatlines (also chat-rooms) can be formalized as dynamic systems with heuristics. We have studied chatlines in the framework of social networks. The design and data analysis of chatlines opens a new interesting research direction in social network studies. It provides the opportunity of studying the dynamics of human social behaviour in experimental ’controlled’ (or nearly controlled) conditions. Our study aims to point out both the analogy with physical systems of interacting objects and the social network emerging properties linked to the existence of different communication patterns and usage of different heuristics in the participants. We describe guidelines for effective implementation of a chatline in controlled experimental conditions. We identified several parameters which represent meaningful statistical estimators of the activity of the network and we computed the correlation of these parameters and measures of network statistics.
 Cognitive Chatline Environment 1.0

Chat Presentation

We have developed a chatline environment that allows the recording of the interactions among a group of ten participants. We have tried to arrange an environment that mimics that of an unstructured group of stranger participants. Each participant has at his disposal a console with two textual windows, one for communicating with the rest of participants in a public way, and one to communicate to a selected subset in a private way. This should model loud conversations and whispering. Since people do not see each other, we have included two ”radars” in the interface, in
which the symbols representing other participants may be placed (1). One radar is public, seen by others, and user can only move his own symbol. The other is private, and one can move all others symbols while his own is always at the center. In this way we are trying to offer an equivalent to external non-verbal communications (the public radars) similar to changing place in order to be closer to a given person, and a mnemonic aid (the private radar) for the representation of others’ identities and their perceived social proximity, as seen by each user. In order to corroborate this interpretation, messages coming from a given individuals are darker is the individual is close in the public radar, and vanishingly clear if she is far. Finally, each message can have a ”mood”, represented by a a small icon with thumb up, down or neutral (2). This should condense the non-verbal content of a message (as usual in textual chats). 
 The Blank Modality 

BLANK MODALITY

We have conducted a series of experiments considering 5 communities of 10 different subjects in interaction for 45 minutes. The subjects did not know each other and a "neutral" and randomly assigned nickname were associated by the system to each of them. Before the experiments all subjects were instructed in the same way and underwent the same training on the system. 
The instructions was simply to freely interact with others, structuring within the end of the experiment a representation of the perceived "affinity" with others using the private radar tool.
 The Topic Modality

Topic Modality

In the Topic Modality 5 communities of 10 different subjects in interaction for 45 minutes have been tested priming their interaction with a specific Topic. Before the experiments all subjects were instructed in the same way and underwent the same training on the system. Instructions asked the subject to participate in a role playing game where they composed an Ethic Committee and where they had to reform the Law that control the "
animal research". The instructions was to interact with others gathering the main instances about animal research, structuring within the end of the experiment a representation of the perceived "affinity" with others using the private radar tool.
 The Voter Modality

Voter Modality

In the Topic Modality 5 communities of 10 different subjects in interaction for 45 minutes have been tested priming their interaction with a specific Topic. Before the experiments all subjects were instructed in the same way and underwent the same training on the system. Instructions asked the subject to participate in a role playing game where they composed an Ethic Committee and where they had to reform the Law that control the "
animal research".The instructions was to interact with others gathering the main instances about animal research, structuring within the end of the experiment a representation of the perceived "affinity" with others using the private radar tool.
 First Results: The heuristics that build the affinity

Cognitive Networks Dynamics: Experiment