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Title: Explaining virtual community participation : accounting for IT artifacts through identification and identity confirmation
Other Titles: Tou guo ji shu yin su dui she qu ren tong he ge ti shen fen que ren de ying xiang jie shi xu ni she qu can yu xing wei
Authors: Shen, Kathy Ning (申宁)
Department: Dept. of Information Systems
Degree: Doctor of Philosophy
Issue Date: 2007
Publisher: City University of Hong Kong
Subjects: Computer networks -- Social aspects
Internet -- Social aspects
Notes: CityU Call Number: QA76.9.C66 S528 2007
Includes bibliographical references (leaves 122-138)
Thesis (Ph.D.)--City University of Hong Kong, 2007
v, 138 leaves : ill. ; 30 cm.
Type: Thesis
Abstract: Prior research investigating the effects of system design on virtual community (VC) participation lacked theoretical underpinning, stipulating direct relationships. Recent research proposed identity confirmation as a mediator for the impact of system design. Such an approach, although insightful, favors the identity of the self over that of the community in explaining participation. To address this theoretical gap, this thesis draws upon the self-verification theory, social identity theory and self-categorization theory to investigate the dual effects of system design, i.e., identity confirmation (the self) and identification (the community). Although identification has been demonstrated as a significant determinant of participation, very few studies investigated its formation in virtual communities. An important theoretical development in this research is the conceptualization of virtual community identity and the elucidation of its system design determinants. Community presentation, i.e., system design features for presenting a virtual community identity, is hypothesized to facilitate identification by setting the boundaries for inter-group comparison and highlighting the in-group homogeneity. Furthermore, system design features that prior research identified as determinants for identity confirmation, i.e., self-presentation, deep profiling, and co-presence, are argued to also have impacts on identification directly by influencing social comparison and indirectly by making the virtual community identity attractive. The resulting research model accounts for the dual roles of system design features, i.e., effects on identification and identity confirmation, in explaining virtual community participation. The theoretical model was validated by a survey study involving 604 registered members of 8 different virtual communities. The empirical results provided strong support for the model. Furthermore, a group variance analysis revealed two distinct groups of virtual communities. Although for both groups, identity confirmation and identification were found to be significant and independent driving forces for community participation, the relative importance of their effects differed. Identity confirmation was the dominant participation factor for the first group, while identification was the dominant participation factor for the second group. The effects of system design features on identification and identity confirmation also differed considerably. In the first group (identity confirmation group), the significant system design determinants of identification were community presentation, self-presentation and co-presence. Identity confirmation had only one system design determinant, self-presentation. In the second group (identification group), the significant system design determinants of identification were community presentation and self-presentation, and those for identity confirmation were self-presentation, co-presence and deep profiling. A post hoc analysis revealed community characteristics in the two groups (e.g., gender composition, community history, and community policies) that may account for such differences. The implications of these results for both theory and practice are discussed in the thesis.
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