Information Systems - Theses

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    Understanding participation in passion-centric social network sites
    PLODERER, BERND ( 2011)
    Passion describes a strong inclination towards an activity that people like and find important. It provides people with meaningful goals, facilitates personal development, and enriches their social lives. On the other hand, passion can be a source of tension with other areas of everyday life, which demands sacrifices, risks, and sometimes even suffering. The aim of this thesis is to explore the relationship between technology and passion. In particular, this thesis addresses a gap in our understanding of participation in social network sites designed to support people’s passions. While related work indicates the potential of passion-centric social network sites to enhance passion, little is known about how participation in these sites may complicate or otherwise influence passion. I conducted three empirical studies to address this gap. Study 1 and 2 examined bodybuilding and the social network site BodySpace, whereas study 3 focussed on analogue photography and Flickr. In all three studies I used a field research approach to examine passion and participation in social network sites as well as related offline settings. Study 1 identified three different categories of online participation: tool, community, and theatre. These three categories showed how passion-centric social network sites both support and constrain the development of skills, social relations, and identities related to passion. Study 2 expanded on these findings, showing how online participation and passion vary between amateurs and related professionals. Study 3 evaluated the findings from study 1 and 2 in a different context. This study refined earlier findings on participation and its influence on passion, and it showed which of these findings are applicable to different domains. Through these studies, this thesis contributes to current research in three distinct, but interrelated ways. First, the findings extend existing models of online participation by showing variations between the different categories of participation of amateurs and professionals. Second, this thesis extends current understanding of social relations on passion-centric social network sites by showing how and why users connect with different kinds of strangers as well as with groups of friends and peers. Finally, this thesis extends current understanding of passion in the context of social network sites. While existing sites support people in achieving their goals, they appear limited in mitigating sacrifices and risks, and thus they may adversely complicate passion. This thesis discusses practical implications emerging from these findings that address this challenge. It concludes with a call for novel technologies to mitigate sacrifices and to facilitate harmonious passion.