Information sharing, exchange, reward and social capital

01/07/2007 - 01/04/2008

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Can the analytical concepts and assumptions of social exchange theory be applied to information markets? Will this help to generate further theory related to information and knowledge sharing?

This study used social exchange theory as a framework for exploring how information and knowledge sharing is motivated, examining online exchanges between members of a defined community of bloggers. It demonstrated that people with established off-line relationships are more likely to interact with one another when they move into an online environment than those who have not enjoyed earlier contact. It also indicated that social rewards, such as approval of the quality of work and validation of an individual’s membership of the group, are important motivations. These are in the gift of the community, and are more powerful as incentives for participation than any hard rewards on offer (which, in this case, was a mark for the work completed in the gift of community outsiders in the person of the module tutors). There is also some evidence to suggest that, as the online environment develops, the desire to reciprocate contact grows amongst participants as they “learn” this mode of behaviour. In this case it is suggested that a gift economy may have emerged more strongly had the duration of the study extended longer.

The work was supported by funding from the Carnegie Trust for the Universities of Scotland, and conducted in association with Dr Gunilla Widén-Wulff of the Åbo Akademi University, Finland.

Information sharing, exchange, reward and social capital is a Research - Other Sources project funded by Carnegie Trust for the Universities of Scotland. Carried out in collaboration with Lorraine Paterson, Dr Gunilla Widén-Wulff and others. For further information please refer to .
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Project Team

Brian Davison
+44 131 455 2373
Hazel Hall
Director of CSI
+44 131 455 2760

Associated Publications

Hall, H., Widen-Wulff, G., Peterson, L. (2010). Not what you know, nor who you know, but who you know already: examining online information sharing behaviours through the lens of social exchange theory. Libri, 60, (2), 117-128.

Hall, H., Widen-Wulff, G., Peterson, L., Davison, B. (2009, June). Shared relationships, spaces and online information behaviours: a social exchange and capital perspective. Paper presented at Information: Interactions and Impact (i3), Aberdeen.

Hall, H. (2009, November). Shared relationships, spaces and online information behaviours: a social exchange and social capital perspective. Paper presented at ASIST 2009: Thriving on diversity - information opportunities in a pluralistic world, Vancouver, BC, Canada.

Hall, H., Widen-Wulff, G. (2008). Social exchange, social capital and information sharing in online environments: lessons from three case studies. Studia Humaniora Ouluensia, 8, (), 73-86.