University of Maryland

[Call for Papers] Information Systems Research (ISR) Special Issue on Collaboration and Value Creation in Online Communities

March 3rd, 2014 by

Researchers interested in submitting papers are invited to submit their paper ideas to the Guest Editors by May 30, 2014, for early reactions.
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Special Issue on Collaboration and Value Creation in Online Communities

Special Issue Editors: Samer Faraj, Georg von Krogh, Karim Lakhani, and Eric Monteiro

In the past two decades, a range of new information technologies, broadly characterized as Web 2.0, have fundamentally altered the nature of community building, collaboration, and organizing in economic and social life. Technology-enabled collectives in the form of online communities (OC) bring together large numbers of geographically dispersed individuals in support of an activity, interest, or identity. Starting with Armstrong and Hagel’s early work conceptualizing the value of online communities for firms, and concomitant with the explosion of OCs in number and membership, academic interest in these collectives has accelerated. Researchers have investigated a range of issues in the context of OCs, from organization and governance, to what motivates people to participate and contribute volitionally to relative strangers, to the economic and social value created by these collectives.

The goal of this special issue is to both take stock of and chart new directions for OC research in the information systems (IS) discipline. In particular, it seeks to encourage novel theorizing and research that enriches our understanding of the practices and dynamics at play in OCs. Many important questions related to OCs remain under-studied. For instance, although research has focused on why people participate in online communities at the individual level of analysis, less is known about the activities of members, the inner workings of communities, and the processes and technologies that support them. To illustrate, many OCs are sustained by the work of a small group of dedicated, core contributors who create content and protect the boundary of the community, with a much larger group of individuals lurking or sporadically contributing information. Recent lines of inquiry have emphasized the social capital and social practice aspect of community engagement. Furthermore, although research on OCs has become increasingly reliant on large data sets and analysis of information and other resource flows, often such research subscribes to a structural perspective where actors and actions are represented by network position, frequencies of ties, or inference from linked others. A macro structural perspective may inhibit a deeper understanding of the full dynamics of OC with its multiple layers of actors and activities.

To the extent that OCs represent new forms of organizing and have emerged as complex settings where serious work gets done and collaboration of hitherto unseen scale can emerge, there is a need to broaden and deepen understanding of this evolving phenomenon. Online communities provide forums for wide-ranging efforts in product development and knowledge creation. They are increasingly seen as sites for unconventional knowledge collaboration and innovation, with far-reaching implications for economy and society. Yet surprisingly little is known about online communities focused on a variety of significant domains such as health support, rare diseases, human genomics research, knowledge remixing, eScience, and citizen science.

Research that goes beyond the application of a few select social psychological theories and the routine application of network analysis tools to explain complex online actions and organizing is needed. Consistent with recent advances in the science of networks, new ways of representing action, actors, artifacts, and outcomes are called for. Above all, new theorizing that crosses levels of analysis, does not blackbox technology, and does not conflate OC activities with aspects such as the use of social media tools warrants attention. Central to new modes of theorizing is a stronger, perhaps constitutive, role of technology in the very phenomenon under study. By taking stock of drivers for action, the emergent practices, and the evolving form of OC organizing, the IS field has the potential to advance new views on change and adaptation of organizations, thereby claiming a central position in the discourse on the new realities.

This special issue seeks papers that help the field to understand community dynamics, collaborative practices, and value-creation processes in OCs in order to both improve and move beyond traditional views of the online phenomena. All theoretical and methodological perspectives are welcomed, and novel and original perspectives are especially sought. Topics of interest include but are not limited to the following:

Varieties of multilevel theorizing cutting across individual and aggregate levels
Sociomaterial accounts of OCs
The technology infrastructures undergirding OCs
Roles, governance structure, authority relations, and community boundaries
Lessons for organizational collaboration from OCs
Psychological tensions between the demands by formal organization and the role expectations expressed by the community
Implications for our understanding of how groups share knowledge
Characteristics of value-creation processes in OCs
Managing the process of innovation with OC boundary fluidity
Firm and OCs interaction in innovation and collaboration
Social identity building from interactions between organizations and OCs
Community-based modes of governance and organizing