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Lurkers in online communities


"Bill.Richards" <[log in to unmask]>


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Thu, 21 Sep 2006 10:01:04 -0700





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1. De-Lurking in Virtual Communities: A Social Communication Network
Approach to Measuring the Effects of Social and Cultural Capital
Sheizaf Rafaeli, Gilad Ravid, Vladimir Soroka
The a-symmetry of activity in virtual communities is of great interest.
While participation in the activities of virtual communities is crucial
for a community's survival and development, many people prefer lurking,
that is passive attention over active participation. Often, lurkers are
the vast majority. There could be many reasons for lurking. Lurking can
be measured and perhaps affected by both dispositional and situational
variables. This project investigates social and cultural capital,
situational antecedents of lurking and de-lurking. We propose a novel
way of measuring such capital, lurking, and de-lurking. We try to figure
out what are the triggers to active participation. We try to answer this
by mathematically defining a social communication network of activities
in authenticated discussion forums. Authenticated discussion forums
provide exact log information about every participant's activities and
allow us to identify lurkers that become first time posters. The
proposed Social Communication Network approach (SCN) is an extension of
the traditional social network methodology to include, beyond human
actors, discussion topics (e.g. Usenet newsgroups threads) and subjects
of discussions (e.g. Usenet groups) as well. In addition the Social
Communication Network approach distinguishes between READ and POST link
types. These indicate active participation on the part of the human
actor. We attempt to validate this model by examining the SCN using data
collected in a sample of 82 online forums. By analyzing a graph
structure of the network at moments of initial postings we verify
several hypotheses about causes of de-lurking and provide some
directions towards measuring active participation in virtual communities.

2. WIRED FROSH: A Case Study of Electronic Community Building in a
Freshman Dorm
Richard Holeton, Stanford University

While "virtual communities" have been studied as separate entities, only
recently have we had the chance to observe the social effects of new
technologies in face-to-face (f2f) living groups. With increasing
dependence on computer-mediated communication (CMC) in fully-wired
college residences, critics fear that students are becoming more
isolated. But CMC also has the potential to complement and extend f2f
forms of interaction, to become a tool for building, rather than
destroying, social relations. In a case study of a Stanford University
dorm e-mail list, I will analyze how college students who live together
use and perceive electronic discussion in the context of other
community-building tools.*
Despite prominent gender disparities in participation and the heavy
proportion of discussion carried on by a small core group of
participants -- on the list overall and for critical dialogue especially
-- the dorm e-mail list was a very valuable medium for
community-building. Residents found the list useful for a wide variety
of social purposes, from housekeeping to negotiating group norms,
discussing political issues, and grieving for a dead friend. Not just
core group members, but lurkers and shy people as well benefitted from a
substantial amount and impressive quality of critical dialogue (i.e.,
discussion of social, political, and dorm community issues). The e-mail
list was very valuable for particular individuals who found ways to work
out personal tensions, feelings, and growth partly through this medium,
in turn becoming part of and benefitting the community as a whole.

See especially: "Core Group," "Regular," and "Lurker" Participation by
Student Residents on E-mail List

3. Shedding light on Lurkers in Online Communities. In Ethnographic
Studies in Real and Virtual Environments: Inhabited Information Spaces
and Connected Communities. Nonnecke, B. and Preece, J.

Scott A. Golder and Judith Donath, Sociable Media Group, MIT Media

Individuals’ behavior in groups is constrained by several factors,
including the skills, privileges and responsibilities they enjoy. We
call these factors a social role, and explore using the concept of
social roles as an analytical tool for studying communities in Usenet
newsgroups. Our understanding of what roles are and how they function is
derived from sociolinguistics, social psychology, and the ethnography of
communication. We conducted an observational study of several Usenet
newsgroups and, from the collected data, constructed a taxonomy of
roles, with which we analyzed social interactions and their impact on
newsgroup communities, especially how communities change over time.
Another widely-recognized role is the Lurker, the participant who reads
a newsgroup’s conversations, but does not participate himself. As
discussed in the section on the Newbie, a FAQ will often suggest that a
new participant lurk for a time before participating, in order to learn
about the group and prevent socially inappropriate behavior. However,
lurking is not simply a stage in the life of a Newbie that is completed
when one begins to post messages; lurking, for many reasons, is a
strategy that can be sustained for as long as one wants.
To address the perceived problem of Newbies’ lack of communicative
competence and common ground, many newsgroups with FAQs will advise new
participants to “lurk” for some time before participating. Lurking is
the practice of reading the newsgroup’s conversation without
participating oneself. For the new participant, time spent reading
before participating serves as a socialization period, intended to teach
him or her, by example, the expectations of the newsgroup. The principle
at work is the “law of social proof,” which states that, “we view a
behavior as correct . . . to the degree that we see others performing
it” (Cialdini 2001). It is through observing others that we learn how to
behave ourselves.

Blair Nonnecke, Maptuit Corporation, Toronto; and Jenny Preece, Dept. of
Information Systems, Baltimore

The goal of this paper is to address the question: ‘why do lurkers
lurk?’ Lurkers reportedly makeup the majority of members in online
groups, yet little is known about them. Without insight into lurkers,
our understanding of online groups is incomplete. Ignoring, dismissing,
or misunderstanding lurking distorts knowledge of life online and may
lead to inappropriate design of online environments.
To investigate lurking, the authors carried out a study of lurking using
in-depth, semi-structured interviews with ten members of online groups.
79 reasons for lurking and seven lurkers’ needs are identified from the
interview transcripts. The analysis reveals that lurking is a strategic
activity involving more than just reading posts. Reasons for lurking are
categorized and a gratification model is proposed to explain lurker

6.Motivating Content Contributions to Online Communities: Toward a More
Comprehensive Theory
Steven J. J. Tedjamulia, David R. Olsen, Douglas L. Dean, Conan C. Albrecht

" ... Several studies have observed and surveyed OCs to find out why,
for how long, and to what extent people participate [7, 8, 23–25]. OC
users participate in several different ways [7, 18]. The first and most
prevalent type of participant browses OCs and consumes information but
does not contribute. The second type of participant is the one who does
not find the specific type of information he or she wants and ventures
to ask the community a specific question. These two types of
participants are called “lurkers.” Several OC observations have
indicated that lurkers represent 80–90% of an OC’s population [9, 18].
Lurkers play a key role in the value provided by OCs by consuming useful
information; they also ask questions that trigger contributions from

7. Electronic Communities as Intermediaries: the Issues and Economics
Ai-Mei Chang, P. K. Kannan, Andrew B. Whinston

from the abstract: "...In this paper, we explore the role of
e-communities as intermediaries in exchange relationships among
community members and between community members and other interest
groups such as marketers and advertisers from an economic perspective.
In particular, we focus on the types of interactions that take place
among community members and between community members and other interest
groups and examine the economic issues involved in maintaining a healthy
community. Deriving parallels from extant research in intermediation, we
explore conditions and incentive mechanisms under which such communities
could thrive on the Internet. We also draw on limited empirical examples
from the World-Wide-Web in support of our hypotheses."

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