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Matzat, U. (2010). Reducing problems of sociability in online communities: Integrating online communication with offline interaction. American Behavioral Scientist 53 (8), 1170-1193

Social network researchers claim that relations offline affect relations online. However, it is unclear which characteristics of online interaction are affected by the existence of offline relations. This paper attempts to answer the question of whether a mixture of virtual and 'reallife' interaction between at least some members of knowledgesharing online communities in contrast to 'purely virtual' interactionreduces the prevalence of the problems that the whole community faces. Typical problems of sociability that increase the risk of failure in knowledge sharing are: 1) a lack of trust between members, 2) free rider behavior, and 3) a lack of stable membership. This analysis uses survey data from 26 online communities that are part of a virtual organization that hosts communities for teachers. The findings provide evidence for the existence of more trust and less free riding in 'mixed' communities, but not for greater membership stability. Results lead to the conclusion that offline networks have beneficial effects on online knowledge sharing and contribute to our knowledge of how offline networks influence online relations. Moreover, they modify earlier claims about the integration of online communication with offline interaction by showing that a complete integration is unnecessary.



Matzat, Uwe

Research interests especially: online interaction, social control on the internet, social consequences of the internet, knowledge sharing in online settings, the internet and academic communication, methods of online data collection in general: problems of cooperation and social order,...

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