The Efficacy of Knowledge Sharing: Centralized Vs. Self-Organizing Online Communities
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This study investigates the impact of an online communityâ s control structure on the knowledge sharing process in that community. Using a framework comprised of legitimate peripheral participation theory and the weak-ties phenomenon, the study focuses on a comparative analysis of self-organizing online communities (e.g., weblog networks) and centralized online communities (e.g., discussion forums communities) with respect to the efficacy of knowledge sharing in these communities. The findings of this study indicate that self-organizing communities of practice have more weak-ties among their members compared to centralized communities. As per weak-ties theory of Granovetter (1973, 1983), these findings suggest that self-organizing communities facilitate greater dissemination of knowledge and flow of information among their members than centralized communities. The abundance of weak-ties in their community structure also makes self-organizing communities better environments for the discovery of new information compared to centralized community environments. This study did not find any evidence of community structure impact on peripheral participation and the interaction activity level among peripheral participants of a given online community. These observations may have stemmed from the limitations of research design, however, it is safe to say as of now that verdict on peripheral participation differences in different community structures is inconclusive at best.
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