Empirical investigation of relational social capital in a virtual community for website programming

Tan, Chuan Hoo and Sutanto, Juliana and Tan, Bernard C.Y. (2015) Empirical investigation of relational social capital in a virtual community for website programming. ACM SIGMIS Database, 46 (2). pp. 43-60. ISSN 0095-0033

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A virtual community of interest has a specific and narrow topic of discussion. Therefore, these communities attract registered members who are focused on knowledge sharing. The current research examines whether network ties, which are an aspect of structural social capital that can be categorized into strong and weak social ties, can provide a non-trivial explanation for members? trust, reciprocity, and identification in a virtual community for website programming interest. This relationship enables us to examine a context in which members share a common goal of resolving programming problems through knowledge sharing in contrast with other community settings where only general topics are discussed (e.g., societal and emotional issues). Data were collected through a survey of a virtual community for website programming composed of 69 members. Affirming conventional perception, results of the study indicate that weak ties affect the level of generalized trust and facilitate group identification. Remarkably, the number of members? strong ties is not significantly related to the degree of their perceived norms regarding generalized reciprocity. Reciprocity refers to a mutual expectation that a benefit granted at present should be repaid in the future. The results suggest two key points. First, even for a virtual community of interest, weak ties overshadow strong ties in explaining the outcome variables. Second, reciprocity is not guaranteed even in a focused form of discussion with a non-social topic that involves specialized knowledge. Therefore, virtual community members should be cautious even if ties are strong. Overall, results imply that virtual community administrators, particularly those who manage specialized communities, should be attentive to the strong and weak ties that exist among the community members.

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© Author/ACM, 2015. This is the author's version of the work. It is posted here for your personal use. Not for redistribution. The definitive Version of Record was published in ACM SIGMIS Database http://dx.doi.org/10.1145/2795618.2795622
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10 Aug 2015 15:32
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14 Apr 2024 23:58