Culture in Thai Society and Online Virtual Communities

Culture in Thai Society and Online Virtual Communities

Graham Kenneth Winley (Assumption University, Thailand) and Tipa Sriyabhand (Assumption University, Thailand)
DOI: 10.4018/IJICTHD.2020010102
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Abstract

Cultural characteristics of an online virtual community (VC) are compared with cultural characteristics of Thai society (TS). Cultural characteristics are analyzed using Hofstede's dimensions and data from a sample of 369 Thai citizens who are active members of a VC. Also, associations between cultural characteristics and personal characteristics (gender, age, education, VC experience, and work position) were examined in both contexts. The findings indicate (1) individualism, masculinity, and indulgence are more evident in TS than in a VC; (2) in a VC, there were no significant differences between males and females. In TS, males placed more emphases on power distance and uncertainty avoidance and less on long term orientation; and (3) in a VC, only age and experience were associated significantly with cultural dimensions. In TS, work position was the only characteristic that was not associated significantly with cultural dimensions. Practical implications of the findings are discussed.
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Introduction

A virtual community (VC) is an online social network of individuals and services that connect people who share interests across cultural, political, economic, and geographic borders in order to pursue mutual interests or goals (Buriyameathagul, 2013). The many-to-many communication relationship supported by the internet distinguishes it from communication using traditional mass media and enhances the formation of a VC with its own cultural characteristics.

Hofstede, Hofstede, and Minkov (2010) theorize culture at a societal or community level and define it as the collective programming of minds that distinguishes one group of people from another. Hofstede, Hofstede, Minkov, and Vinken (2008) operationalize this broad definition using six dimensions each of which is measured with four components. According to McCrae (2000), culture determines personality and consequently the measurement of culture at the level of an individual rather than a society or community requires the assessment of personality traits. However, many studies have used Hofstede’s dimensions rather than personality traits to assess culture at the level of an individual and examples related to a VC include Smith and Bond (1993), Migliore (2011), Han and Kim (2019), and Naranjo-Zolotov, Oliveira, Casteleyn, Zahir Iranic (2019). Accepted justification is based on the finding by Hofstede and McCrae (2004) that average personality scores from 33 countries correlated significantly with Hofstede’s dimensions. Hofstede’s dimensions are used in this study to examine cultural characteristics in the context of an online VC and the society to which the members belong.

Hofstede’s dimensions are well known in various fields of study. Surveys of previous studies by Park, Gunn, and Han (2012); Kapoor et al. (2018); and Samoh et al. (2019) have shown that these dimensions may explain the sourcing, adoption, and use of systems, especially online systems. Also, the use of online systems may be influenced by personal characteristics: gender (Kavanaugh, Carroll, Rosson, Zin, & Reese, 2005; Hargittai, 2007); age (Kavanaugh et al., 2005; Subrahmanyam, Reich, Waechter, & Espinoza, 2008); education and work position (Kavanaugh et al., 2005); and VC experience (Blake & Neuendorf, 2004; Nath & Murthy, 2004). However, there have been few studies which compare the cultural characteristics of a VC with the cultural characteristics of the local society to which the members belong or examine associations among cultural characteristics and personal characteristics of the members. This gap among previous studies is most evident in developing nations such as Thailand. Consequently, the purpose of his study is to examine the following research questions from the perspective of a community of individuals who are members of both Thai society (TS) and a VC:

  • Q1. Are there significant associations between personal characteristics and cultural characteristics within TS or a VC?

  • Q2. Are there significant associations among cultural characteristics within TS or a VC?

  • Q3. What are the findings when the cultural characteristics in TS are compared with the cultural characteristics in a VC?

  • Q4. What are the theoretical and practical implications of the findings?

The findings from this exploratory study are expected to contribute to an improved theoretical understanding of similarities and differences between the cultural characteristics of a VC and the member’s local environment. It is expected that the findings assist practitioners interested in cultural characteristics of online environments and especially those responsible for the design, development, and management of a VC in global or local cultural environments. For comparison, only one other study with this purpose has been conducted in Thailand by Buriyameathagul (2013).

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