Social networks and cooperation in electronic communities: a theoretical-empirical analysis of academic communication and Internet discussion groups

Uwe Matzat

Research output: ThesisThesis fully internal (DIV)

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The study examines the use of academic e-mailing lists and newsgroups on the Internet by university researchers in the Netherlands and England. Their use is related to three clusters of problems that are analyzed. Firstly, while there are considerable time costs for using Internet Discussion Groups, their potential benefits for the individual researcher and their impact on the informal academic communication structure are unknown. Are they information tools or social tools for enlarging the social networks of researchers? Do those researchers who have less contacts profit more from the opportunities to get in contact with other researchers such that existing inequalities between the 'haves' and 'have-nots' are reduced? Secondly, there are large disciplinary differences in the prevalence of the use of Internet tools. For knowing more about the preconditions for the successful introduction of a new Information & Communication Technology, it is useful to gain two insights. Which aspects of the communication system of a discipline inhibit or stimulate the use of an Internet tool and by which mechanisms do they so? Thirdly, it is unclear why some Internet Discussion Groups are more successful in reaching a satisfying academic discussion than others. How can an electronic group make sure that its members contribute to the discussion, provide help to others, and participate in the production of a collective good for the whole group? Which impact do offline social networks have on the online communication and how do institutional factors, such as a high degree of social embeddedness of an Internet Discussion Group into a 'real-life' academic community, influence the attainment of a satisfying discussion?
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • University of Groningen
  • Snijders, Thomas, Supervisor
  • de Vos, Hendrik, Co-supervisor
Award date6-Dec-2001
Place of Publication[S.l.]
Publication statusPublished - 2001

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