Digital Identity and Reputation in a Virtual Practice Network - Insights Using Linguistic Features

Digital Identity and Reputation in a Virtual Practice Network - Insights Using Linguistic Features

Salam Abdallah (Abu Dhabi University, Abu Dhabi, UAE)
Copyright: © 2018 |Pages: 23
DOI: 10.4018/IJeC.2018100101

Abstract

Many studies have focused on the motivation of knowledge contributions in virtual communities. However, one of the most fundamental ways in which people present their knowledge contributions is through the use of language, and its effect on social identification and impression management has not been thoroughly examined. The goal of this study is to better understand language use in regards to reputation management in virtual practice networks. The study recognizes why participants on virtual communities, in the pursuit of higher status reputations, will generate better content, more specific to the collective and display better commitment. The research will also address how to evoke these social engagement and commitment behaviors, so that the network community is sustained. This research is valuable for academics and practitioners who seek to understand why people participate and commit to providing knowledge contributions in virtual practice networks.
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1. Introduction

Advances in computer- mediated communication and the proliferation of virtual communities and online social networks have attracted much attention from researchers and practitioners (Cheng and Guo, 2015). This practice provides a critical resource to professionals who are in need of recommendations, best industry practices, insights about their work, tips and tricks, and innovations. The most important part of strong community practice is the aggregation of relevance, providing an environment to support professionals, helping them to achieve their aspirations and to render enhanced services. Existing theories speculate that people join virtual communities to exchange information and for social support. Theories of Internet use have indicated both entertainment and searching for friendship are some of the motivational forces. In sociolinguistics, virtual network relations are recognized as the prominent mechanism of language change (Paolillo, 1999). The language used in social networks mostly reflects the mentality of the individual. Virtual practice communities (VPC), are ‘networks’ which are with loosely tied members or a more closely tied community, and they exhibit similar characteristics to non-virtual communities of practice in which the members are self-organized and allow individuals to share perspectives about their occupational practice or common interests (Brown and Duguid, 1991). While members within communities can be self-organized, it’s highly recommended that one or more people can act as a facilitator to make sure that the group remains active and relevant to its other members. Further, Shin and Kim, (2010) demonstrate that within virtual communities, participants interact to share specific knowledge, solve problems to perform common functions and learn from each other and build their collective knowledge.

Social media networks or web 2.0 technologies is the platform where virtual communities congregate and enable people within firms to make better and timely local decisions to solve tasks more effectively (Krogh, 2012). Web 2.0 social technologies present themselves in the form of blogs, wikis, social networking sites, multimedia sharing tools and other related platforms (Panahi et al., 2013). Wasko et al. (2009) discuss that when individuals share a common practice, the knowledge readily flows across that practice; therefore, social networks are developed to support knowledge exchange for the specific practice. Wasko et al. (2009) refer to social networks that share the same practice as ‘Electronic networks of practice’. Henri and Pudelko (2003), however, refer to these online communities as ‘virtual communities of practice’ and ascertain that for a community of professionals, involvement in a virtual community of practice is a means to make the practice explicit and to improve and even to transform it. Figure 1 shows a model of a typical virtual practice community in the professional environment.

Given the nature of the practice- based communities being self-organized and user-generated content, (i.e., knowledge contributions) recognized as vital for a virtual community’s (VC’s) survival and success, many studies have focused on the motivation of knowledge contribution in virtual communities. In this study, we will be focusing on practice-based virtual community and how reputation can propel those in virtual practice networks to validate and exert their knowledge, drawing on their own expertise, as a means to aid social identification and improve membership esteem and self- esteem. Firstly, we will address the theoretical framework of identity theory following which we propose and evaluate our hypotheses; which will address certain language characteristics. We plan to consider both high and low reputation members of online communities. We identified the type of language used by central actors compared to peripheral actors through the use of LIWC, and Leximancer concept maps. This study has important implications for academic researchers and practitioners who seek to understand why virtual community members engaged in the same or similar practice can show increasing loyalty, commitment, and participation through the motivation of reputation. Therefore one can seek to understand how to use reputation as a means to entail protracted and sustainable user participation.

Figure 1.

A typical virtual practice community network

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