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Narratives of online collaborative experiences: Leaders and lurkers

The purpose of this research was to unpack the reasons why people engage in varying levels of online collaboration in a self selected group. The research investigated (I) the role of online interaction platforms, (2) participants' perceived constraints on, and enablers of online collaboration in order to answer the main research question on (3) how leaders and lurkers deconstructed the online experiences underlying their differing participation levels. An action research methodology was adopted to study how a virtual group evolved. Four iterations of the action research cycle, each building on previous learning, describe the online group's activities "following the actors" through the emergence and establishment of the online actor-network. Participants adopted a distributed email listserve to support initial online group collaboration and a web-based discussion forum to grow the actor-network. Thematic analysis of postings outlined seven main themes, translated as either constraining (time and trust), or enabling online collaboration (beliefs on the value of networking, success aspirations, community belonging, communication channels, storytelling and online trust building). A narrative framework was developed to collect and analyse participants' stories and motives. Self-selected leaders and lurkers constructed different online practice. In narrative terms, leaders experienced most 'unique outcomes' by experiencing and storying online communication skills previously unknown to them. Additionally, leaders emphasised 'social entrepreneurship' motivation to contribute towards their country's growth and proposed 'temporal virtual consultations' as an alternative to conventional conceptions of online groups. Lurkers, on the other hand, were divided about the value of 'virtual networking' in extending business networks. A novel lurking experience was coined 'silent commitment' describing reluctance to participate online contrasting with high face to face involvement. A 'virtual leadership' model was developed integrating the findings to illustrate the contribution of individual self-selected virtual leaders in building social capital. This model illustrates how virtual leaders built online collective capacity constructing an 'archetypal' online narrative.
Type of thesis
Janson, A. (2005). Narratives of online collaborative experiences: Leaders and lurkers (Thesis, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)). The University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10289/12920
The University of Waikato
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