*****  To join INSNA, visit  *****

1. De-Lurking in Virtual Communities: A Social Communication Network 
Approach to Measuring the Effects of Social and Cultural Capital
Sheizaf Rafaeli, Gilad Ravid, Vladimir Soroka
The a-symmetry 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. Often, lurkers are 
the vast majority. There could be many reasons for lurking. Lurking can 
be measured and perhaps affected by both dispositional and situational 
variables. This project investigates social and cultural capital, 
situational antecedents of lurking and de-lurking. We propose a novel 
way of measuring such capital, lurking, and de-lurking. We try to figure 
out what are the triggers to active participation. We try to answer this 
by mathematically defining a social communication network of activities 
in authenticated discussion forums. Authenticated discussion forums 
provide exact log information about every participant's activities and 
allow us to identify lurkers that become first time posters. The 
proposed Social Communication Network approach (SCN) is an extension of 
the traditional social network methodology to include, beyond human 
actors, discussion topics (e.g. Usenet newsgroups threads) and subjects 
of discussions (e.g. Usenet groups) as well. In addition the Social 
Communication Network approach distinguishes between READ and POST link 
types. These indicate active participation on the part of the human 
actor. We attempt to validate this model by examining the SCN using data 
collected in a sample of 82 online forums. By analyzing a graph 
structure of the network at moments of initial postings we verify 
several hypotheses about causes of de-lurking and provide some 
directions towards measuring active participation in virtual communities.

2. WIRED FROSH: A Case Study of Electronic Community Building in a 
Freshman Dorm
Richard Holeton, Stanford University

While "virtual communities" have been studied as separate entities, only 
recently have we had the chance to observe the social effects of new 
technologies in face-to-face (f2f) living groups. With increasing 
dependence on computer-mediated communication (CMC) in fully-wired 
college residences, critics fear that students are becoming more 
isolated. But CMC also has the potential to complement and extend f2f 
forms of interaction, to become a tool for building, rather than 
destroying, social relations. In a case study of a Stanford University 
dorm e-mail list, I will analyze how college students who live together 
use and perceive electronic discussion in the context of other 
community-building tools.*
Despite prominent gender disparities in participation and the heavy 
proportion of discussion carried on by a small core group of 
participants -- on the list overall and for critical dialogue especially 
-- the dorm e-mail list was a very valuable medium for 
community-building. Residents found the list useful for a wide variety 
of social purposes, from housekeeping to negotiating group norms, 
discussing political issues, and grieving for a dead friend. Not just 
core group members, but lurkers and shy people as well benefitted from a 
substantial amount and impressive quality of critical dialogue (i.e., 
discussion of social, political, and dorm community issues). The e-mail 
list was very valuable for particular individuals who found ways to work 
out personal tensions, feelings, and growth partly through this medium, 
in turn becoming part of and benefitting the community as a whole.

See especially: "Core Group," "Regular," and "Lurker" Participation by 
Student Residents on E-mail List

3. Shedding light on Lurkers in Online Communities. In Ethnographic 
Studies in Real and Virtual Environments: Inhabited Information Spaces 
and Connected Communities. Nonnecke, B. and Preece, J.

Scott A. Golder and Judith Donath, Sociable Media Group, MIT Media 

Individuals’ behavior in groups is constrained by several factors, 
including the skills, privileges and responsibilities they enjoy. We 
call these factors a social role, and explore using the concept of 
social roles as an analytical tool for studying communities in Usenet 
newsgroups. Our understanding of what roles are and how they function is 
derived from sociolinguistics, social psychology, and the ethnography of 
communication. We conducted an observational study of several Usenet 
newsgroups and, from the collected data, constructed a taxonomy of 
roles, with which we analyzed social interactions and their impact on 
newsgroup communities, especially how communities change over time.
Another widely-recognized role is the Lurker, the participant who reads 
a newsgroup’s conversations, but does not participate himself. As 
discussed in the section on the Newbie, a FAQ will often suggest that a 
new participant lurk for a time before participating, in order to learn 
about the group and prevent socially inappropriate behavior. However, 
lurking is not simply a stage in the life of a Newbie that is completed 
when one begins to post messages; lurking, for many reasons, is a 
strategy that can be sustained for as long as one wants.
To address the perceived problem of Newbies’ lack of communicative 
competence and common ground, many newsgroups with FAQs will advise new 
participants to “lurk” for some time before participating. Lurking is 
the practice of reading the newsgroup’s conversation without 
participating oneself. For the new participant, time spent reading 
before participating serves as a socialization period, intended to teach 
him or her, by example, the expectations of the newsgroup. The principle 
at work is the “law of social proof,” which states that, “we view a 
behavior as correct . . . to the degree that we see others performing 
it” (Cialdini 2001). It is through observing others that we learn how to 
behave ourselves.

Blair Nonnecke, Maptuit Corporation, Toronto; and Jenny Preece, Dept. of 
Information Systems, Baltimore

The goal of this paper is to address the question: ‘why do lurkers 
lurk?’ Lurkers reportedly makeup the majority of members in online 
groups, yet little is known about them. Without insight into lurkers, 
our understanding of online groups is incomplete. Ignoring, dismissing, 
or misunderstanding lurking distorts knowledge of life online and may 
lead to inappropriate design of online environments.
To investigate lurking, the authors carried out a study of lurking using 
in-depth, semi-structured interviews with ten members of online groups. 
79 reasons for lurking and seven lurkers’ needs are identified from the 
interview transcripts. The analysis reveals that lurking is a strategic 
activity involving more than just reading posts. Reasons for lurking are 
categorized and a gratification model is proposed to explain lurker 

6.Motivating Content Contributions to Online Communities: Toward a More 
Comprehensive Theory
Steven J. J. Tedjamulia, David R. Olsen, Douglas L. Dean, Conan C. Albrecht

" ... Several studies have observed and surveyed OCs to find out why, 
for how long, and to what extent people participate [7, 8, 23–25]. OC 
users participate in several different ways [7, 18]. The first and most 
prevalent type of participant browses OCs and consumes information but 
does not contribute. The second type of participant is the one who does 
not find the specific type of information he or she wants and ventures 
to ask the community a specific question. These two types of 
participants are called “lurkers.” Several OC observations have 
indicated that lurkers represent 80–90% of an OC’s population [9, 18]. 
Lurkers play a key role in the value provided by OCs by consuming useful 
information; they also ask questions that trigger contributions from 

7. Electronic Communities as Intermediaries: the Issues and Economics
Ai-Mei Chang, P. K. Kannan, Andrew B. Whinston

from the abstract: "...In this paper, we explore the role of 
e-communities as intermediaries in exchange relationships among 
community members and between community members and other interest 
groups such as marketers and advertisers from an economic perspective. 
In particular, we focus on the types of interactions that take place 
among community members and between community members and other interest 
groups and examine the economic issues involved in maintaining a healthy 
community. Deriving parallels from extant research in intermediation, we 
explore conditions and incentive mechanisms under which such communities 
could thrive on the Internet. We also draw on limited empirical examples 
from the World-Wide-Web in support of our hypotheses."

SOCNET is a service of INSNA, the professional association for social
network researchers ( To unsubscribe, send
an email message to [log in to unmask] containing the line
UNSUBSCRIBE SOCNET in the body of the message.