Organizing Online Production without Formal Organization

Title: Organizing Online Production without Formal Organization
Speaker: Haiyi Zhu, HCII, CMU
Date: Wednesday, April 11th
Time: 12p-1p
Room: GHC 6501

Online production communities have successfully aggregated the efforts of millions of volunteers to produce complex artifacts such as GNU/Linux and Wikipedia. Currently most online production communities rely on a paradigm of self-direction in which people work primarily on the tasks they are interested in. However, this approach breaks down when there are conflicts between the interests of the individuals and the goal of the community as a whole. Many people may want to work on the same popular areas while ignoring less popular areas that require work. People may not want to perform cooperative behaviors (e.g., performing maintenance tasks or socializing newcomers), even though these behaviors are important for the healthy functioning of the community. Therefore, the challenge has become how to motivate people to achieve the community goal that transcends individual interest in an environment which lacks hierarchical structure and monetary incentives. I identified particular mechanisms, including group identification and shared leadership, which intrinsically influence people’s actions to achieve a common goal. I empirically examined their effectiveness in the context of Wikipedia. My research has implications for designing more effective, efficient and successful online production communities.