The final article analysis I have chosen, is actually research driven on the very site we’re using-virtual communities. From Behaviour & Information Technology, Vol. 29, No. 4 is an article entitled “Knowledge Contribution in virtual communities: accounting for multiple dimensions of social presence through social identity”. The article takes four different social communities, and analyzes how social presence and identity play in a role in knowledge contribution-in other words, how does one’s identity and status affect the amount of knowledge one is willing to contribute? A qualitative survey was used to assess participants, and they found a difference in relative contribution of social presence dimensions on social identity as well as knowledge contribution.
Just from the introduction, it is a given that how ‘comfortable’ a person is within a virtual community will have an affect-adverse or otherwise-on not just how much information an individual is willing to put out, but how rigid that information is. In other words, being more widely accepted in a community gives way to more motivation to express one’s self. The study also notes that many experiments prior to this tend to analyze identification as a moderator to define behaviour or social influence theory (Shen et al, 2010). This study seeks to understand how identifying with a virtual community (VC) develops and the general impact of IT artefacts. The paper also further explains social identity and self-categorization theories and how these two combined have advocated an idea that a group involved can obtain cohesiveness by having members that openly and willingly identify themselves. However, past studies assume social identity is a given, but they do not address its antecedents (Shen et al. 2010).
The actual research begins by clarifying that ‘social influences have shown to be critical to prompt individuals’ knowledge contribution in VCs (Wasko and Faraj, 2005).’ The research hypothesized three things:
- A person’s social identity with a VC will be positively correlated with his/her knowledge contribution to the VC.
- A member’s sense of awareness/affective social presence/cognitive social presence will be positively correlated with his/her social identity with the VC.
- A member’s sense of awareness/affective social presence/cognitive social presence will be positively correlated with his/her knowledge contribution with the VC.
The study used 4 VCs, all of similar terms with software packaging, size, community age, content organization, and theme. The policies were about the same for each, and had been operational for about 2-3 years, with a current member population of roughly 3000-5000. The test had 430 participants.
Through all the participants, it was proven that conscious mediation of situational effects is not a rule-awareness was not sufficient in enlightening members social identity, but still activated the need for knowledge contribution. Knowledge contribution was proven to be more likely mediated through social identity in terms of social presence. Lastly, the sense of a virtual environment and the presence of a shared community may make users of a VC believe that it fulfills their social needs, thus making knowledge contribution more likely.
This paper is unique in the fact that, while many studies on VCs exist, this is one of the few that actually try to define the heart and soul of a VC. It takes social identity, and integrates it with social presence theory, allowing the researchers to actually see how a standing of an individual (or a comfort zone) can actually drive knowledge and social contribution. With that being the case, I would like to see a study that actually goes into a psyche of an individual to see what drives their need to distribute knowledge. I know many people who blog on an hourly basis-and others who hate it. Aside from the fact that blogging is still the new way to get drafts, information, white papers, or even thought proving documentation out to the public in an expeditious manner, what kind of individual is behind that information? Surely, the immediate responses would be that of ‘researchers’, ‘teenagers’ or even something as negative as ‘sociopaths’-but I think that it would help define the breadth of what VCs are. For how many exist, each one caters to a different community-or caters to a community in a different way. What are the decisive factors for these? This study proves that member behaviour and interest are based around the community itself and identity-I want to know more about the users, personally. Speaking from a personal standpoint, I don’t much care for blogging-however the WordPress site has become more than a symbol of ‘where I go to post class stuff.’ It’s comfortable, I don’t get spammed like crazy, and I feel as though the community is extremely diverse. I actually do more than write class notes here-I can read interesting articles from others, find interesting information about side topics, or even follow a friend in Taiwan. I’m extroverted, and a chatter box (I don’t think I have a post that is less than 600 words). I’m also curious what constitutes ‘knowledge distribution’-is this a forum post of some sort? Is it just a statement? Is it some type of literature that is uploaded?
That might be more research for another day, however.
Reference: Shen, Yu, Khalifa. Knowledge contribution in virtual communities: accounting for multiple dimensions of social presence through social identity. Behaviour & Information Technology, 29: 337-348. July-August 2010.