, Volume 3, Issue 3, pp 437-456

Investigating the impact of differences in kind upon resource consumption in web-based social networks

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Abstract

Understanding factors that encourage membership is becoming critically important in the success of web-based social networks. Web-based social structures provide various resources designed to encourage membership, such as mechanisms for finding individuals, posting and receiving messages, joining groups, promoting oneself or events, sharing news or photos, and protecting personal information. However, resources in the web-based social structure deviate quite drastically from resources in the traditional world being equally available to all societal members, reproduced at near zero cost, where consumption does not reduce supply but increases societal value of the resource, and where resource consumption requires trust of the consumer and affects privacy of the social network population. This paper uses the sociological view that clusters of individuals who exhibit similar patterns of behavior will emerge in social structures. Given that trust and privacy have long been established as important concepts in understanding behaviors in the online environment, we endeavor in this study to determine whether trust and privacy emerge as critical factors in the environment of the web-based social network. We use social network analysis to cluster individuals who exhibit both high and low tendencies toward trust and privacy, and then examine patterns of consumption of resources across these networks.