Friday, 15 July 2011

Understanding the failure of an organisational online community: A practice-based interpretation (by Gibran Rivera Gonzalez)

Previous research into online communities has, on many occasions deliberately simplified the factors affecting (non-)participation. 

1.         Some studies have looked at online communities from a static point of view and thus neglected
a)  the existence of previous relationships, which certainly affect the way in which current interactions occur,
b)  previous usage of certain media which causes people to continue using certain media, thus making it more difficult for them to adopt new technologies,
the fact that participation occurs as an evolving  process rather than as a one-time-event. Many studies tend to assume that participation is a static event and so cannot explain how participation changes over time,
c)  previous experiences of users in regard to their use of other similar communities.

2.         Other studies have regarded online communities as information infrastructures located in a vacuum, with internal characteristics (such as technological features) and internal dynamics (such as the content of contributions) treated as the only factors defining how participation takes place.  Such studies therefore ignore other important forces that exist outside the boundaries of these communities and thus:
a)  ignore the existence of alternative competing media which can potentially hinder participation in these online spaces,
b)  minimize the effects of the organizational local practices in which online communities reside, and
c) neglect the importance of current ways of interaction (and their rationale) already taking place at specific organizational contexts.

3.                  Other simplifications have regarded online communities as ones in which only active participants are relevant, and have therefore disregarded different levels of participation, and have overlooked the place of more passive participants.

My research aims to improve understanding of participation in online communities, and focuses on the failure of an organisational online community created to support Knowledge Sharing amongst HR Directors of a Multi-Campus University System in Mexico.  During the implementation of an organisational Human Resources (HR) project across the whole organisation, a decision was made by the HR President to introduce an online community that could support the project implementation. After 6 months there was virtually no participation in the online community; however the project continued to be implemented.  

This research uses a battery of different methods for data collection (mainly semi-structured interviews) and is based on an inductive thematic analysis informed by a Practice-based approach which acknowledges the fact that online communities are located within a specific field of practices which has its own spirit, priorities, history, ways of interaction, and practitioners. Therefore, the research aims to study not only the online community, but also the overall context in which this community is located, and the practices it supports. The study is expected to provide a more holistic picture of the forces shaping online community (non-) participation.

No comments:

Post a Comment