Virtual Communities as Narrative Networks: Developing a Model of Knowledge Creation for Crowdsourced Environments

Virtual Communities as Narrative Networks: Developing a Model of Knowledge Creation for Crowdsourced Environments

Michael R. Weeks (Department of Management, Sykes College of Business, The University of Tampa, Tampa, FL, USA) and Natasha F. Veltri (Department of Information & Technology Management, Sykes College of Business, The University of Tampa, Tampa, FL, USA)
Copyright: © 2013 |Pages: 21
DOI: 10.4018/jkm.2013010102
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Abstract

This paper extends our understanding of knowledge creation in virtual communities of practice by examining crowdsourcing activities that enable knowledge creation in these social structures. An interpretive methodology, narrative networks analysis, is used to systematically study the narratives of discussion forums in a virtual community. The virtual community studied is voluntary for the participants, and open to anyone. Through the analysis of the narrative, a model of knowledge creation is developed that identifies types of evidentiary knowledge contributions, as well as conversation mitigators that help or hinder knowledge creation within the community. Knowledge is a primary attraction of a virtual community for many of its members, and this study aims to understand how knowledge is shared and created in such voluntary communities of practice. The model highlights elements that enhance and impair knowledge creation in this type of crowdsourced environment.
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Theoretical Background

A virtual community of practice is “an online social network in which people with common interests, goals, or practices interact to share information and knowledge, and engage in social interactions” (Chiu, Hsu, & Wang, 2006, p. 1873). Early work on communities of practice focused on communities that were limited in scale and scope, and shaped within organizational or industrial boundaries (Brown & Duguid, 1991; Wenger & Snyder, 2000). By contrast, today’s virtual communities of practice are often comprised of thousands of members with multi-dimensional online identities, rich communication media, and complex social norms. These communities develop over time through the dynamic interaction of the members and evolve along distinct paths that influence the subsequent interactions of the community, despite the constant ebb and flow of the membership (Rheingold, 1993). Moreover, virtual communities of practice largely rely on member-generated content and thus, are dependent on active member involvement and participation. This participation frequently occurs on the discussion boards or forums. While the connections in these communities are generally “weak ties” (Granovetter, 1973), the discussion boards form remarkably strong communities of practice that are characterized by well-defined social norms (Brown & Duguid, 1991).

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