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Invisible Participants: How Cultural Capital Relates to Lurking Behavior

  • Vladimir Soroka, IBM Haifa Research Lab Haifa University Campus, Israel
  • Sheizaf Rafaeli, The Center for the Study of the Information Society University of Haifa, Israel

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Track: E* Applications: E-Communities, E-Learning, E-Commerce, E-Science, E-Government, and E-Humanities

The asymmetry of activity in virtual communities is of great interest. While participation in the activities of virtual communities is crucial for a community's survival and development, many people prefer lurking, that is passive attention over active participation. Lurking can be measured and perhaps affected by both dispositional and situational variables. This work investigates the concept of cultural capital as situational antecedent of lurking and de-lurking (the decision to start posting after a certain amount of lurking time). Cultural capital is defined as the knowledge that enables an individual to interpret various cultural codes. The main hypothesis states that a user's cultural capital affects her level of activity in a community and her decision to de-lurk and cease to exist in very active communities because of information overload. This hypothesis is analyzed by mathematically defining a social communication network (SCN) of activities in authenticated discussion forums. We validate this model by examining the SCN using data collected in a sample of 636 online forums in Open University in Israel and 2 work based communities from IBM. The hypotheses verified here make it clear that fostering receptive participation may be as important and constructive as encouraging active contributions in online communities.


Soroka, V. and Rafaeli, S. 2006. Invisible participants: how cultural capital relates to lurking behavior. In Proceedings of the 15th International Conference on World Wide Web (Edinburgh, Scotland, May 23 - 26, 2006). WWW '06. ACM Press, New York, NY, 163-172.
DOI= http://doi.acm.org/10.1145/1135777.1135806

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