Participation and Knowledge Exchange in a Hybrid-Economic Software Community
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Why and how technology professionals share and exchange knowledge and otherwise participate in peer-production and peer-support communities is an ongoing topic of study. Extant research skews toward online communities and toward open-source software (OSS) communities of developers, limiting what researchers can say about why and how knowledge-sharing and peer-support happens in cases where such practices are conducted beyond these settings. In this paper, I present results from a mixed methods study of the shared cultural knowledge in the Microsoft SharePoint user community, a global knowledge-sharing peer support community with substantial online and offline contexts. Learning, access to experts, and socio-professional motivations drive participation, but how the community provides for its constituents cannot be explain by theorizing the community as strictly a nonmarket institution but as a hybrid-economic institution constituted by interdependent market and nonmarket dynamics. The study also raises questions for future research regarding how the relationship between “online” and “offline” manifestations of community participation are conceptualized.
KeywordsKnowledge exchange Software communities Ethnography Mixed methods
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