The effects of socially relevant representations in content on members' identities of participation and willingness to contribute in distributed communities of practice
Peter G. Kilner, The Pennsylvania State University, United States
The Pennsylvania State University . Awarded
A major challenge for sustaining distributed communities of practice (DCoPs) is generating contributions of content from experienced members. This study examines whether textual content in a DCoP can be written to increase members' identity of participation and willingness to contribute. In a post-test-only, control-group experiment, members of a DCoP of U.S. Army junior officers read and responded to content relevant to their practice. Using Hoadley's concept of socially relevant representations (SRRs) (1995, 1999, 2004), a set of SRRs termed "cues of participation" were embedded into the experimental treatments. The study finds that participants who read content embedded with the SRRs reported higher levels of identification with the community and higher levels of identity of participation overall (Wenger 1990, 1998), although they reported no significant difference in willingness to contribute overall. Of interest to leaders of DCoPs is that the SRRs affected members' differentially, based on their level of experience. Among members with low levels of experience, the presence of the SRRs in content decreased their expressed willingness to contribute their own content. Among members with high levels of experience, exposure to the SRRs in content related positively with their expressed willingness to contribute. In this way, the presence of SRRs in content appears to foster an epistemology in DCoPs that values contributions from the most experienced practitioners.
Kilner, P.G. The effects of socially relevant representations in content on members' identities of participation and willingness to contribute in distributed communities of practice. Ph.D. thesis, The Pennsylvania State University.
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