Working paper

Social capital in the commons-based peer production
community: A network perspective of collective action

Rong Wang

Giorgos Cheliotis

Communications and New Media
Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences
National University of Singapore
Blk AS6, #03-41, 11 Computing Drive
Singapore 117416

Prepared for
the 11th Annual Conference of the Association of Internet Researchers (AoIR),
Gothenburg, Sweden
October 21-23, 2010

Working paper

I ntroduction

Through the adoption of information and communication technologies, new instances of
collective action are emerging with variations from traditional understanding. Two
central elements of collective action (Olson, 1965): the binary decision to make
contribution or not and the importance of formal organization, are challenged. Bimber,
Flanagin and Stohl (2005) define collective action as a phenomenon of
boundary-crossing between the private and public domain, composed of a set of
communicative processes. Following this, the same authors propose a two-dimension
model, including the mode of interaction and engagement in order to give an improved
theoretical framework, so we can identify how collective action might happen. The
interaction mode ranges from personal to impersonal, and the engagement mode from
entrepreneurial to institutional (Flanagin, Stohl, & Bimber, 2006).
The classical question that interests the study of collective action addresses, how
participants could be motivated to make contributions to provide the public good. In the
conventional understanding of collective action, rational individuals balance the costs of
and expected benefits from their contribution, and make the decision to be a contributor
or a free-rider. In the context of this study, the free-riding is no longer considered as a
central challenge for the online collective action. What becomes more salient in the
contemporary media environment is in what way the organization in a specific online
community would affect the occurrence of collective action, in terms of how people
engage in providing the collective good, and how they interact with each other.
Choosing two sizeable commons-based peer production (CBPP) communities that
focus on cultural production and distribution, this study regards CBPP as a new instance
of online collective action, and adopts the two-dimension model of collective action
space (Flanagin et al., 2006) to examine how expected social benefits function as
selective incentives for participants, and how the formal structure incorporated into the
production by the community is transferred into the autonomy of users, and help
produce more social capital in order to facilitate collective action. The methods used in
the study include Social Network Analysis (SNA) and the online survey. SNA which
has been completed has tested our hypotheses, while the survey is an ongoing project,
and we have collected the data from one community (out of the two sampled ones) as a
pilot study. Through the analysis, we link the theoretical framework proposed by
Flanagin et al. to elements of SNA applied to the entire population of active contributors
in each community, so as to ground our analysis on empirical observation. This paper
contributes to the study of collective action and SNA of the CBPP community.

Literature review

Re-conceptualizing collective action in a network society: interaction and engagement
Collective action is rooted in the study of political sciences, economics, and political
economy, and is becoming interdisciplinary after decades of development. This terms
broadly refers to actions undertaken by individuals or groups in pursuit of the same
public good (Marwell & Oliver, 1993, p. 4). Olson defines any good as public good if
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providing it to one member of the group cannot prevent others from enjoying it, and the
issue drawn from this point is called „nonexcludability‟ (Olson, 1965, p. 14). He also
points out that this is a necessary attribute of a public good. Providing the collective
good is based on participants‟ common interests, however considering the fact that even
without making contributions to the collectivity, members in the interest group still can
gain benefits from others‟ contribution, free-riding tends to be more attractive for
rational people who care about the balance between costs and self benefits, and thus
impedes or even stalls the entire collective endeavours. This phenomenon is identified
as the tragedy of commons (Bard, 2005; G. Hardin, 1968; Olson, 1965; Sweeney, 1973).
In contemporary media environment, what challenges the aforementioned
arguments about free-riding is the significantly lowered threshold for contribution.
Examples can be found from posting health-care information on online forums to share
with others, or forwarding a message to a list of email addresses. Bimber et al. (2005)
come to an argument that the issue of free-riding is no longer of such importance as
previously thought, and propose that more attention should be paid to analyzing the
organization of collective action.
Under the traditional framework of collective action, the emphasis is put on the
importance of formal structure, which is characterized by formalized hierarchy and a high
value placed on group interests. The formal structure could facilitate the coordination of
individuals‟ efforts and solve communication problems at low cost, thus functioning as
an effective means of overcoming the problem of free-riding (Olson, 1965). Related to
this issue, small groups are favoured for collective action, as monitoring of easier; while
in large groups, individuals‟ segmented free-riding will have a negligible effect on the
collective endeavour, especially when there is a critical mass in striving for the common
interests, and in that case, it is less adverse to free-riding (R. Hardin, 1982; Marwell &
Oliver, 1993; Ostrom, 1990). Since the issue of free-riding is no longer a big
impediment for collection action, how the organization is affecting the collective action
has to be addressed again.
A lot of scholars have focused on testing how online instances of collective action
happen in the absence of formal organization. Lupia and Sin (2003) argue that evolving
technologies invalidate some common assumptions made in the context of traditional
collective action and they conclude that ICTs are eliminating the organizational
advantages of small groups through lowering the communication cost for large-scale
self-organized groups and increasing a group‟s public visibility. Empowered by new
technologies, anyone can initiate a type of collective action and call for other
participants without the constraint of time and space. This self-organization mechanism
can even facilitate a big scale of participants‟ network, challenging the emphasis on the
small group size. One of the most cited examples is the WTO protest in 1999. Lacking of a
central organization, this movement was coordinated through forwarding emails about
petitions and signature. In the end, it turned out to be a group of demonstrations with 50,000
people (Levi & Murphy, 2006). Set in the context of social movements initiated by NGOs,
Shumate and Lipp (2008) reinforce what we have discussed so far by making the argument
that ICTs have considerably blurred both of the two important dimensions of traditional
collective action theory: the distinction between membership and non-membership
(essentially tied to free-riding), as well as the need for formal organization. In an empirical
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study of the Global Social Justice Movement in New Zealand, Ganesh and Stohl (2010) find
that ICTs have enabled individuals to become information and communication brokers,
linking across different groups of activists with a low transaction cost, reaching again the
same conclusion, that formal organizations become less relevant. Flanagin, Flanagin, and
Flanagin (2010) explain that the technical code of the Internet has generated a new sense of
empowerment that has resulted in a range of collective endeavors aiming at the self
provision of public goods, often under conditions of self-organization and in large groups
that are heavily dependent on ICTs.
Some other forms of online collective nevertheless are taking on both formal and
informal structure. One interesting example is the Wikipedia community. It is found out
that although there was no centralized control within the community and everyone can have
the freedom to do editing, there was still certain structures embedded. Some contributors are
selected by peers to be administrators of the community and will have privileges and tools
to deal with vandalism. The listed rules and guidelines in Wikipedia show that, it is
displaying a hybrid feature of self-organization and formal organization (Johnson, 2008).
Many others come into a unanimous conclusion that online user communities are important
examples of contemporary collective action that often challenge conventional understanding
of the issue of structure (Benkler, 2006; Viégas, Wattenberg, Kriss, & vanHam, 2007).
All these mentioned challenges are underlining the need for a more inclusive
definition. After discussing and analysing a host of contemporary collective action,
especially ones that operate in online environment, Bimber et al. (2005) reconceptualize
collective action as a phenomenon of boundary crossing from the private to public
realm. They emphasize that collective action is a set of communicative processes. This
new definition situates traditional collective action as a special case, where the
boundary is well-defined and free-riding is a rational choice when balancing cost and
benefits of making contributions. They also point out that that the consistency between
traditional theory and this new definition is recognition of the necessity of information,
communication, and coordination, and this is why they set collective action as
communicative in nature.
As follow-up work based on the new conceptualization, Flanagin, Stohl, and
Bimber (2006) propose a two-dimension model by analyzing the mode of interaction
and the mode of engagement. These two modes form two axes of “collective action
space”, which incorporate how people interact with one another and the opportunities
for engagement afforded by these collectivities. More specifically, the mode of
interaction here refers to the means of communication available to participants, and the
ways in which communication is structured, and it ranges from personal to impersonal.
The mode of engagement refers to the organization of collective action, ranging from
institutional to entrepreneurial.
Based on what we have discussed above, we found that, although the issue of updating
arguments on organization of collective action is identified, there is almost no empirical
study to compare the real effect of formal and informal organization on the occurrence of
collective action. This motivates us to look into a specific context, which is the
commons-based peer production, and explore this issue.

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Commons-based peer production as collective action
Commons-based peer production (CBPP) refers to the organization of production by peers,
based on openly shared resources. Members in a CBPP community get free access to
available commons and produce use-value through intentional or accidental collaboration
(Benkler, 2006; Bollier, 2007; Cheliotis, 2009; Cheliotis & Yew, 2009). In the CBPP
community, the whole production process is self-governed by community members and all
the self-created content is shared freely on a universal basis through the new common
property, licensed as “Creative Commons”
, which offers a special set of sampling licenses
to let artists and authors invite other people to use part of their work and make it new
(Lessig, 2004). Specifically in this study, we will concentrate on online music production
community, with two sampled online communities ccMixter and kompoz.
There are generally two distinct ways of organizing cultural production in CBPP
community that focuses on music, ad-hoc collaboration and explicit collaboration. Ad-hoc
model of collaboration is also called „accidental collaboration‟, in the way that the
production of the content is enacted individually and in a completely uncoordinated fashion:
a user finds online another user‟s work, and then decides to reuse this in a new work; this
lead to an interaction between the two, or it may not. The other type of collaboration is
more like the implement of traditional model of cultural production, through adding
team-based collaboration into the online realm, which emphasis the explicit interaction
among users, and intentional coordination of individuals‟ endeavors.
ccMixter and kompoz are two online communities which revolve around open and
legal sharing and the collaborative creation of music by large numbers of self-motivated
users. All content on the two communities is legally uploaded, copyrighted and licensed
under CC licenses. Their members engage in producing new music by using available
resources in each community. The main difference between ccMixter and kompoz lies
in utilizing different approaches in the organization of production, which result in
important differences in the engagement and interaction opportunities that they provide
to members. The content in ccMixter evolves through the production of a series of
different iterations of a song, often by different and self-selected contributors, who may
take the work in any direction they desire. This loosely coordinated model of
engagement can in principle lead to many creative and unexpected results, and is touted
by the community‟s founder as the best model for the Web 2.0 era (Stone, 2009).
Komoz stresses explicit collaboration between members, where users are organized by
project. Members in the same project collaborate to work on a final version of a specific
music piece, through submitting their own tracks. Both two communities provide a
significant amount of autonomy to their users with respects to initiatives they can take,
however kompoz is straightly encouraging self-organization in structured projects, more
likely to be replicating the traditional music band model, while ccMixter follows a
different philosophy that emphasizes a pool sharing model. Referring to pervious
discussion about the statement that the issue of organization is an active research area,
this study will start the investigation from this dimension, or the dimension of
engagement in the collective action space, and extend the analysis into further issues,
such as how collective action can be influenced in each community by choosing distinct

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organization, what incentives are addressed for each community, and what social
benefits are perceived by users, among other inquiries.
The communicative conceptualization of collective action is relevant to the purpose
of this paper, because it is more inclusive of online activities that may have some
elements of collective undertaking that are not always explicit and readily recognizable.
In the CBPP community, members need to create their own musical tracks based on
available resources or raw material in the common pool. They need to differentiate what
kind of resources can be used, according to some criterions. During the selection, some
collaboration between peer members can happen to produce content, as mentioned
earlier. After completing the process of production, participants will face the phase of
distribution, to decide whether to publish the finished work or not and what kind of
license to use. This addresses the need to cross the boundary from the private
contribution to the public distribution. Through the whole course, how to collect,
distribute, and coordinate relevant information is crucial for potential contributors,
which is consistent with the logic of contemporary collective action.

Motives for CBPP communities: Social benefits as selective incentives
As mentioned in the previous discussion, the classical question about collective action
asks how to motivate people to make contribution. This refers to motive analysis. Since
the advent of the web2.0, a lot of scholarship has focused on examining what kind of
gratifications are motivating Internet users to produce user-generated content. By
looking at weblog and online communities, some scholars identified social interaction,
self-expression, community building, exchange of social support, and entertainment as
major motives for postings (Nardi, Schiano, & Gumbrecht, 2004; Ridings & Gefen,
2004; Stöckl, Kosyak, Walter, & Hess, 2006; Wang & Fesenmaier, 2003; Wasko &
Faraj, 2005). Other incentives include information seeking, passing time, professional
advancement, and altruism (Trammell, Tarkowski, Hofmokl, & Sapp, 2006; Wasko &
Faraj, 2000). More relevant to CBPP context, a study on Wikipedia concludes that there
are three inventivizing features that enable collection action in the community:
technological, organizational, and social level (Johnson, 2008).
By identifying these motives, scholars are stressing one argument from Olson that
selective incentives are important for collective action, which are defined as private
benefits to reward contributors or punishments for non-contributors (Olson, 1965).
Selective incentives not only include material self-interests, but also solidary incentives
that arise from interaction with others, and purposive ones such as the moral feeling of
self-satisfaction from making contribution to the public good (Marwell & Oliver, 1993,
p. 7). In most of cases, it was the combination of these different levels of selective
incentives that stimulate rational individuals to participate into collective action. As a
community which is initially not designed for social interaction, the socialization
incentives address more interests in studying CBPP communities. Linking to this issue,
the theory of social capital and SNA perspective will be introduced in the following

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Social capital and collective action
Through the engagement in an online community, participants are forming their social
networks, which stores up certain resources that can be accessed and mobilized in
purposive actions (Lin, 2001). The study of social relationship is mirrored by the theory
of social capital, which has been adopted by scholars to explain how collective action
can happen, as the decision contribute or not can be addressed by analyzing the social
benefits and sanctions (Zhang & Wang, 2010). As Coleman (1990) stated, the value of
social capital lies first in the fact that it identifies certain aspects of social structure,
based on their functions. These identified aspects of social structure are valuable to
actors as resources which could be used to achieve their interests and facilitate
productive activity. From the perspective of function, Coleman emphasizes that social
capital inheres in the structure of social relations between and among actors, which
makes it not completely fungible. The particular relevance of social capital must be
studied in specific contexts and settings. Although Coleman proposed several
mechanisms which could generate social capital, he failed to distinguish resources
themselves with the ability to get access to them (Portes, 1998).
Putman developed Coleman‟s ideas and defines social capital as “connections
among individuals-social networks and the norms of reciprocity and trustworthiness that
arise from them” (Putnam, 2000, p. 19). This conceptualization highlights three
components: trust, norms, and networks. Central to the discourse of social capital is the
strength of social ties, which is a combination of amount of time, the emotional
intensity, the intimacy, and reciprocity in a relationship. Strong ties typically embody
mutual trust, shared norms, and close identification, while weak ties are structurally
defined to represent the social relationship between acquaintances that are not
associated with other links in the focal actor‟s network, are sources for bridging social
capital (Granovetter, 1973). Both strong and weak ties are sources of social capital. Two
dimensions of social capital are distinguished according to the tie strength. The bonding
dimension is embedded in strong ties, and featured by gaining emotional support and
ability to mobilize solidarity. Bridging social capital is produced through weak ties,
with characteristics of outward looking, better linkage to external assets, and ability for
information diffusion (Putnam, 2000; Williams, 2006).
The stock of social capital is conducive to coordinating interdependent actions
among people and overcoming the incentive for free riding, thus facilitating collective
action (Coleman, 1990; Putnam, 1993). However scholars have a debate on if bridging
or bonding social capital is more effective in promoting collective action. In this study,
we would propose that the difference in their role is related to the category of collective
action. Strong ties are conducive to expressive actions which are about maintaining
valued resources, while weak ties are more useful for instrumental actions, which are
about seeking and gaining additional valued resources (Lin, 2001). Set in the CBPP
community, we propose that it combines both expressive and instrumental actions and
thus possesses both strong and weak ties.
Referring to Granovetter‟s argument about the strength of weak ties, CBPP
community users who possess weak ties own access to external assets and ability for
information diffusion, and are more likely to function as bridges for other users
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connected through them. Linked to more people who are more heterogeneous in terms
of resources, these users will be more willing to accept mobility. Linking it to collective
action, weak ties are making the boundary between the public and the private domain
porous since they can facilitate the exchange of information and function as bridges
between people to accommodate changes. For the dimension of strong ties, it matters
for collective action in terms of providing high assurance of information sources and
mutual trust, rather than the one-way relations in the social network. Set in the CBPP
community, which is designed based on commons interests, strong ties can take shape
to produce some social support, and thus ensure the safety of boundary-crossing and
call up people for collectivity. Considering the fact that some CBPP members are
offline friends, they can bond and strengthen their relationship through collaborative
work of producing music. Previous study shows that the social network of CBPP
community is characterized by the formation of a core of highly active members who
appear to share more and stronger ties with each other through the act of jointly
producing or reciprocating the remixing of each other‟s works (Cheliotis & Yew, 2009).

SNA and related network metrics
Related to the theory of the network society and the theory of social capital is Social
Network Analysis (SNA). SNA assumes that nodes in the network are interdependent
and their communication defines this interdependence (Wasserman & Faust, 1994).
SNA is a field of study that focuses on social connections among a set of actors, or
attributes of pairs of individuals, rather than on attributes of actors. It is based on the
logic that the structure of social relations could significantly affect substantive outcomes
in the community or society.
Network approach has already been adopted in social sciences, especially in
communication studies (Monge & Contractor, 2001, 2003). In the networked society
that is constructed around flows, ICTs are facilitating interaction both in the individual
and organizational level and making information exchange more and more convenient
and efficient (Castells, 1996). Among the information flow across diverse boundaries,
networks of related actors are taking shape in a dynamic process, indicating patterns of
relationships and power structure. The network structure of the CBPP community will
draw how a node transmits musical elements to peer members and affects the
consequent cultural production in the community. In the SNA of the CBPP community,
members are taken as network nodes only when they are involved in collaborative
music production and thus labeled as active contributors.
In the network perspective, there are some SNA metrics that can be taken to
measure bonding and bridging social capital. In this study, we use the degree of
reciprocity, density, and average tie frequency to reflect the strength of social ties. The
higher value of each indictor will demonstrate the bonding dimension of social capital,
while the lower value is showing the bridging social capital. Another network metric
related to collective action is the value of centralization, which could reflect to what
extent the CBPP community is set in the institutional mode of engaging users. Also we
measured the network size for each community, indicating how much percentage of
CBPP community members are involved with collective action in that context. Check
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the Table1 for detailed definition of these network metrics.
Another way of measuring social capital is to ask CBPP users to do self-perception,
by conducting a survey. A well-verified scale of measuring two dimensions of social
capital is adopted in this study. Starting form Putnam‟s criteria, Williams (2006)
concludes that bridging social capital can be conceptualized by the following factors:
outward looking, contact with a broader range of people, a view of oneself as part of a
broader group, and diffuse reciprocity with a broader community; while bonding social
capital is characterized by emotional support; access to scarce or limited resources;
ability to mobilize solidarity; and out-group antagonism, and develops a detailed scale
for the measurement.

Research questions and hypotheses

In this study, we concentrate on the following research questions.

RQ1: In what ways can the organization structure in a CBPP community predict the
strength of social ties among users?

RQ2: In what ways can the organization structure in a CBPP community predict the
perceived social capital by users?

RQ3: Compared to a purely entrepreneurial mode of engagement, what is the effect of
adding institutional engagement in the CBPP community which focuses on cultural
production, in terms of organizing collective action?

We put forward specific hypotheses which are related to the above research questions.

H1: The degree to which online community members reciprocate by mutually
supporting each other’s initiatives, is positively related to the presence of institutional
mode of engagement and the facilitation of personal interaction

H2: The density of engagement in the network of participants, i.e. the extent to which
participants engage with more and different people in the network, is positively related
to the presence of institutional mode of engagement and the facilitation of personal

H3: The average tie frequency in the network of participants, i.e. the average frequency
of all present links in the network, is positively related to the presence of institutional
mode of engagement and the facilitation of personal interaction

H4: The stock of bonding social capital is positively related to the presence of
institutional mode of engagement, and would facilitate

H5: The stock of bridging social capital is negatively related to the presence of
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institutional mode of engagement

H6: The in-degree centralization is positively related to the institutional mode of
engagement in CBPP communities

H7: The out-degree centralization is positively related to the institutional mode of
engagement in CBPP communities

Findings from SNA

The main distinction between ccMixter and kompoz lies in the organizational level, i.e. with
respect to the organization of production and communication in teams. From the framework
of collective action space, the strongest difference is the mode of engagement in the two
communities. Engagement refers to the ways in which contributors are brought to bear on
the issues and concerns of the collectivity, or how they otherwise contribute towards a
public good. In the context of collective action, engagement indicates making public
contributions that are of value to the participants and likely also to others. The engagement
network we are analyzing in CBPP communities is defined as a network that consists of
nodes (vertices) which represent social actors, and links (edges) which represent instances
of public contribution by a social actor to another social actor‟s collective action initiative.
Each edge is an instance of one social actor engaging another, showing how the publicly
visible contribution flows from the first contributor to the second. Therefore, it is a directed
network. Considering the case that engagement between the same parties can be repeated,
the engagement network is also a valued network, with edges labeled by tie weights
indicating engagement frequency between the two actors.
In ccMixter, the relationship that defines engagement is the remixing of another‟s
musical ideas, because it is this act that carries an idea through multiple iterations and
helps introduce it to more people. If A is the author of one original work, and this work
is remixed by author B and author C, then there is a directed link from A to B and A to
C, signifying the transfer of ideas and content from A to B and C. In kompoz, the link is
created from project founders to ordinary project members. If actor A creates a project,
and actor B and C both upload at least one music track to the project, they automatically
become members of the project team and a link from A to B and A to C can be used to
signify this relationship from the initiator to follow-up contributors.
The total number of registered members in ccMixter is 12,776, and 17% of them
(2,145) are active users who have uploaded something to the community (usually they
are called authors). 1,697 members out of 2,145 have remixed at least one work of
another author or have had at least one work remixed by other authors, and they are
called “active contributors” of collective action in the CBPP community. This number
accounts for 79% of 2145 and 13% of all members. In kompoz, the data shows that the
number of registered members was 11,431. Of all members, 4223 (37% of all members)
are active users who have created projects. Among them, 1357 (32% of active users and
12% of all members) have created successful projects, which have attracted members.
We also use “active contributors” to name them. Compared to ccMixter, kompoz has
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more active users, but the percentage of active contributors out of all registered
members is almost the same in both two communities.
As we can tell from the Table2, the density, average tie frequency, and reciprocity
values in both two communities are quite low, indicating a less cohesive network
structure. This is consistent with one characteristic of the CBPP community that a large
number of individuals are brought together on a common platform on the basis of
common interest and/or practice, but with many of them contributing to the collective
action only circumstantially. It shows that only a very small number of members may
make numerous contributions that are relevant, i.e. valuable to others, while a very large
number of members make a small contribution. From the in-degree and out-degree
centralization, we can tell that there is clearly certain structure in two networks which
are already sparsely knitted.
Turning to the comparison of network metrics from ccMixter and kompoz, the
density in kompoz is relatively higher than the value in ccMixter, indicating that CBPP
participants in ccMixter are more lack of cross-linkage, while kompoz participants have
a higher possibility of getting musical ideas from others. This suggests the existence of
bonding social capital in kompoz. Referring to related hypothesis, H2 is supported.
The amount of reciprocal engagement in ccMixter is noticeably lower than the
value in kompoz, and there are alomst three times as many reciprocal ties in kompoz
than there are in ccMixter. In kompoz network, reciprocal link between actor A and B
means B contributed to the project created by A and A also made contribution to the
project created by B. In ccMixter it means B remixed A‟s work and A also remixed B‟s
work. In both networks, reciprocity can be interpreted as a sign of equality and respect
among peers, or a more widespread ability to advertize new initiatives in one‟ s network
and a willingness to join the initiatives of others. The higher reciprocity degree in
kompoz means members do not just follow and contribute to the project created by
others, they also take initiatives to create their own projects and do succeed somewhat
more often at attracting their former team leaders into their own projects, thus
promoting collective action. Referring to related hypothesis, H1 is supported.
The average tie frequency in ccMixter is a little higher than the value in kompoz,
indicating that participants in ccMixter are more likely to repeat remixing works from
same groups of people. This could help form strong social ties within some cliques
while these ties are possible redundant and adverse for information diffusion. This is
also why the average tie frequency is measured to reflect the bridging social capital or
the existence of weak ties. H3 was not supported. This could be attributed to public
contests which are organized by the ccMixter community and based on some famous
musicians‟ work to promote remix, and the fan-musician structure there. The relatively
lower value of average tie frequency in kompoz could be explained by the fact that
although participants are organized in terms of different projects, they still have
autonomy to decide if they want to create new projects to attract contributors, or which
projects they are interested to join, making themselves not constrained to only certain
Combining these comparisons together, we can make a final conclusion about two
dimensions of social capital in ccMixter and kompoz. Considering the higher value of
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reciprocity and density, while a relatively lower value of average tie frequency in
kompoz, this community possesses both higher stock of bonding and bridging social
capital than ccMixter. Thus we will assume that H4 and H5 are supported, and this
argument will be examined by the online survey conducted in both two communities.
The final metric we are looking at is about centralization. Surprisingly, both
in-degree and out-degree centralization in kompoz are lower than values in ccMixter,
especially the in-degree centralization. Thus H6 and H7 are not supported. This could
be explained by the nature of public contests which ccMixter has a high reliance on.
These community-organized contests are created to encourage user engagement and
boost the community development. It shows the agenda setting by the community,
especially by community administrators and other core members. In this sense, it did not
provide a strong enough context for interaction, coordination and collaboration among
members. In kompoz, formal organization can increase reciprocity and affiliations, possibly
facilitating in building social capital among participants, and it can also, surprisingly, lead
to lower centralization in engagement. Providing people with the tools to self-organize in
some form, even when such forms are pre-determined by a central “authority” (the project
creator in the context of kompoz), can lead to less centralized engagement, while without
providing such tools, the de-facto leaders of a community need to coordinate all action, thus
lead to higher centralization. Thus, we conclude that, formal organization is not
necessarily to be associated with centralized engagement – the opposite may also be
true, depending on the organizational form and whether it is infused with
entrepreneurial elements (hybrid mode of engagement)

Findings from a pilot study on ccMixter and discussion

This ongoing survey is currently being conducted in ccMixter and kompoz. We will
expect the sample size for each community as 300. The link to the survey is posted in
the community forum of both ccMixter and kompoz, with all registered members as
potential respondents to avoid sampling biases.
The data which is reported here is based on a pilot study conducted in ccMixter in
July 2010. Based on what we have collective now, it is found out that CBPP participants
in ccMixter care more about entertainment, skill development, self-expression, personal
interaction, and coordination, which indicates that social interaction will be relevant for
members who joined a community which is based on interest sharing and collaborative
production, rather than developing social relations. The gratification of social
interaction can lead to users‟ perceived bridging and bonding social capital. As shown in
Table4, the value of bonding social capital is noticeably lower than the value of bridging
social capital, which is again consistent with the characteristic of the CBPP community
that it is based on common interests. We will expect the same level of value for bonding
and bridging social capital in kompoz, considering the general characteristics of CBPP
communities, but we will concentrate the comparison of these two values between
ccMixter and kompoz in the following analysis when the survey is completed, and
regression between community use intensity, gratifications, two dimensions of social
capital, and perceived efficacy in both individual and collective level will be also
Working paper
examined, in order to test the real effect of adding institutional structure in the CBPP
The aim of this paper has been to propose a network perspective on a modern
conceptualization of collective action as a communicative process, and to provide examples
for how this network perspective can be applied in practice, using methods of social
network analysis. Adopting the model of collective action space (Flanagin, et al., 2006), we
constructed the large-scale engagement network to explain how collective action is
facilitated by the adding of formal structure in a CBPP community, and suggest how to
better map and measure relationships between participants. In this way we help link
new understandings of collective action to the practice of CBPP and to the tools of
social network analysis. In such a way, some theoretical assumptions on contemporary
collective action can be tested empirically.
Based on SNA data and the comparison of network metrics between two
communities, we conclude that the potential utility of adding structure to engagement
should not be dismissed to call up contributors for collectivity in an online community,
even while we try to extend our understanding of what constitutes collective action
today. This paper contributes to the quantitative study on collective action and also to
the SNA of CBPP community. The possible benefits include that institutional structure
and team-based collaboration, together with personal interaction mode assisted by the
community design could produce more strong ties among participants and will ensure
the safety of the boundary-crossing from the private to the public domain, thus making
it easier to call up participants for collectivity. Furthermore, the CBPP community with
such features could have the ability to explore the weak ties embedded in the participant
network and use them for further creation, which can be beneficial to the dynamics of
the community.
Since the SNA data is based on the activities of remixing/project contribution, it is
not clear whether users are aware of the social capital embedded in their online
activities. This is the reason why we are conducting a survey in both kompoz and
ccMixter to measure what is the self-perceived social capital. The survey can also
function to validate the SNA findings, to see whether the bonding and bridging social
capital is perceived as higher by users in kompoz. Further work will also focus on
constructing interaction network and testing the network perspective in some other
contexts of online collective action.

Working paper


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Table1: Network metrics in Social Network Analysis of CBPP communities
(in a directed network)

Network metric Definition Relation to social capital
Network size How many nodes/participants in CBPP -------------------------------
Density the number of existing ties divided by the
number of pairs in the network, reflecting
what proportion of all possible dyadic
connections in the whole population are
actually present (Hanneman & Riddle,
High density means
cohesive network with high
stock of bonding social
Reciprocity The ratio of number of symmetric to
asymmetric links or to the whole number
of links in the network (Wasserman &
Faust, 1994)
High value of reciprocity
indicates higher stock of
bonding social capital
Average tie frequency the average frequency of all present links
in the network
High value means more
concentrated pair-wise.
A in-degree
Indicative of a great imbalance in
attention given between the more and less
attentive participants
Higher value indicates a
more centralized
community, which may
impair the formation of
social capital
A out-degree
Indicative of a great imbalance in
attention received between the more and
less visible participants
Higher value indicates a
more centralized
community, which may
impair the formation of
social capital

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Table2: The engagement network of ccMixter/kompoz

Network attributes kompoz ccMixter
Network size 1,357 1,697
Edges 4,319 4,846
Density 0.0024 0.0017
Average tie frequency 1.48 1.95
Reciprocity 8.4% 2.4%
Reciprocal ties 333 115
In-degree centralization 10.9% 21.0%
Out-degree centralization 6.9% 7.7%

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Table3 Gratifications perceived by members in ccMixter

N Mean Std. Deviation
gratification on passing time 48 2.2917 1.21773
gratification on escaping 48 2.0278 1.10197
gratification on entertainment 48 4.7153 .55005
gratification_social interaction and
48 3.6111 .98531
gratification recognition 48 3.1806 1.14846
gratification general skill development
48 3.7014 .91801
gratification core skill development
48 4.3194 .76247
48 3.6458 .91586
Valid N (listwise) 48

Table4 Perceived bridging and bonding social capital

N Minimum Maximum Mean Std. Deviation
44 1.27 3.45 2.5021 .54633
44 2.00 5.00 3.7045 .78089
Valid N (listwise)
Missing N