Socialization in Open Source Software Development Communities: A Symbolic Interactionist Perspective

Jijesh Devan and Dany Di Tullio
jijesh@gmail.com and dditullio@business.queensu.ca

Recipient of The Monieson Centre’s Research Travel Award 2nd Place Winner of the 2007 Carl J. Couch Internet Research Award AOIR 2007 Conference, Oct. 17 - 19, Vancouver, BC

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Presentation Overview
• Overview of open source software (OSS) development

• Problem, motivation, and question
• Open source software communities and socialization • The Symbolic Interactionist perspective

• The theoretical model • Theory development
• Proposed methodology • Anticipated results & contribution • Limitations and conclusion • Q&A
Devan & Di Tullio Oct 17 - 19, AOIR, Vancouver, 2007 Socialization in Opensource Software Communities Carl J. Couch Internet Student Research Award 2

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Overview of OSS
•Internet-based communities of software developers who voluntarily collaborate to develop software •Massive parallel development and debugging •Open source software licenses

Devan & Di Tullio Oct 17 - 19, AOIR, Vancouver, 2007

Socialization in Opensource Software Communities Carl J. Couch Internet Student Research Award

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Overview of OSS

From Duchenaut (2005)
Devan & Di Tullio Oct 17 - 19, AOIR, Vancouver, 2007 Socialization in Opensource Software Communities Carl J. Couch Internet Student Research Award 4

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Problem, Motivation, and Question
• Practical Problem: High developer turnover rates and loss of developers in OSS communities (von Krogh et al. 2003) • Academic Motivation: Lack of research on socialization in virtual teams (Ahuja and Galvin 2003, Martins et al. 2004) and normative teams (Lois 1999). •OSS communities = virtual and normative • Question: How do individuals socialize into OSS communities?
Devan & Di Tullio Oct 17 - 19, AOIR, Vancouver, 2007 Socialization in Opensource Software Communities Carl J. Couch Internet Student Research Award 5

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OSS Communities and Socialization [1/2]
• Community is a fabric of relationships held together by a
common interest in a brand or product. (McAlexander et al. 2002; Muniz and Guinn 2001)

• Socialization "prepares the individual for the roles he is to
play, providing him with the necessary repertoire of habits, beliefs, and values, the appropriate patterns of emotional response and the modes of perception, the requisite skills and knowledge." (Chinoy, 1961 P.75)

• King and Sethi (1998) underscore the importance of
socialization - role clarity and improved performance for IS professionals.
Devan & Di Tullio Oct 17 - 19, AOIR, Vancouver, 2007 Socialization in Opensource Software Communities Carl J. Couch Internet Student Research Award 6

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OSS Communities and Socialization [2/2]
• We define an OSS community is a fabric of relationships held together by a common ideology (Stewart and Gosain 2006). • We define socialization as the degree of correspondence between personal meanings of an individual and shared meanings of the community.

Devan & Di Tullio Oct 17 - 19, AOIR, Vancouver, 2007

Socialization in Opensource Software Communities Carl J. Couch Internet Student Research Award

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State of Socialization-Type Research in OSS
• Extant OSS research has identified the pattern of activity members undertake while participating in open source software development (e.g., von Krogh et al. 2003)

• Studies fall short because they neither explicate the socialization process, nor address the actions individuals take to derive meaning from communities (Ducheneaut 2005)
Devan & Di Tullio Oct 17 - 19, AOIR, Vancouver, 2007 Socialization in Opensource Software Communities Carl J. Couch Internet Student Research Award 8

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Symbolic Interactionism
•An interpretive/social constructionist approach •According to SI, people act toward other (people and) artifacts based on the dynamic and emergent meanings of these artifacts. •These meanings are derived through interaction which consist of both action and meaning making. •"A well-done symbolic interactionist study would not seek to understand either meanings or action in isolation, but as a jointly produced dynamic reality" (Gopal and Prasad 2000, p. 515). •Therefore, using SI will help overcome the shortfall in OSS socialization literature.
Devan & Di Tullio Oct 17 - 19, AOIR, Vancouver, 2007 Socialization in Opensource Software Communities Carl J. Couch Internet Student Research Award 9

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The Theoretical Model

Devan & Di Tullio Oct 17 - 19, AOIR, Vancouver, 2007

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Explicating the Model [1/3]
Defining key concepts:
• KS: Those activities through which individuals are soliciting meaning about an artifact of interest. • KP: Those activities through which individuals are providing meaning about an artifact of interest to another individual. • Action: The set of all activities undertaken by individuals in a community. Activities are grouped into two categories: knowledge seeking and providing.

Devan & Di Tullio Oct 17 - 19, AOIR, Vancouver, 2007

Socialization in Opensource Software Communities Carl J. Couch Internet Student Research Award

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Explicating the Model [2/3]
•Personal meaning: personal meanings are meanings individuals assign to objects and events based on the actions that they undertake ( with respect to the community they are a part of). •Shared meaning: shared meanings consist of the negotiated and mutually agreed upon meanings that emerge within the community.
Devan & Di Tullio Oct 17 - 19, AOIR, Vancouver, 2007 Socialization in Opensource Software Communities Carl J. Couch Internet Student Research Award 12

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Explicating the Model [3/3]
Defining key concepts:
• Meaning making: Emergence of both personal understanding and shared understanding through an interpretive process and action. • The socialization process is a dynamic activity through which personal and shared meanings are formed and modified simultaneously through a play of action and meaning allowing for correspondence between the two. •The increasing overlap between personal & shared meanings. Comparable to Nonaka’s (1994) concept of socialization.
Devan & Di Tullio Oct 17 - 19, AOIR, Vancouver, 2007 Socialization in Opensource Software Communities Carl J. Couch Internet Student Research Award 13

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Proposed Methodology
•Inductive approach and thick description (Gopal and Prasad 2000) •Interviews with individuals at various stages of membership as conducted and suggested by Stewart and Gosain (2003, 2006) • Participant observation/archival data, as conducted and suggested by Ducheneaut (2005)

Devan & Di Tullio Oct 17 - 19, AOIR, Vancouver, 2007

Socialization in Opensource Software Communities Carl J. Couch Internet Student Research Award

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Anticipated Results & Contributions
• New theory that explicates the socialization process in OSS communities • A dynamic view of OSS communities • Potential insights into OSS developer turnover/retention
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Limitations & Conclusion
• Our thesis needs to move to the next stage, that is data collection and analysis.

Devan & Di Tullio Oct 17 - 19, AOIR, Vancouver, 2007

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Thank you!

Q&A

Devan & Di Tullio Oct 17 - 19, AOIR, Vancouver, 2007

Socialization in Opensource Software Communities Carl J. Couch Internet Student Research Award

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