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Social Interaction in Online Communities: The Interplay of Attachment and Information Exchange

Knowledge Construction Lab


June 2008 - open-end


Budget resources of KMRC, Leibniz Graduate School for Knowledge Media Research


Social interactions in online communities are more and more part of our daily life: People discuss about private and work-related topics and search for important information. People meeting in networking communities do not only look for past acquaintances and maintain friendship, but also do work-related networking, for example, when looking for a new position or new customers. Interaction and communication within online communities therewith fulfil two functions: informing oneself, and establishing and maintaining relations. Thereby, communication serve not only the function to come in contact with other community members (establishing common bonds), but it also promotes adoption of the common social identity (establishing a common identity). The main research question of the project is how social interaction and communication (e.g., the exchange of personal experiences) promote the integration in and attachment to communities, and which consequences attachment has in turn for social interaction and communication. Because subgroups are often formed within huge online communities that can hinder between-subgroup communication the project has a specific focus on this fact; the consequences of subgroup formation for interaction and communication will be considered.

The social networking of university students on Facebook© and beyond is considered with a sub-project of the ScienceCampus Tuebingen. Focus includes the role of Facebook in establishing a study-related network and study-related exchange, and the effect of the study-related network and the study-related exchange for academic performance.

Besides opportunities for interaction and communication, almost all online communities provide the opportunity to present oneself in individual member profiles. Member profiles make visible who knows what; knowledge carrier within the community become identifiable. Personal information within member profiles can be used to find members with similar interests and from similar work context or rather members with complementary expertise. Within a project, a dissertation examines the question whether people present themselves in different ways and which other factors affect self-presentation in online communities.

Social Interaction Building on the results of the project, implications for designing internet portals or knowledge management systems should be derived so that knowledge exchange – in the sense of contributing knowledge to the whole community or of exchange knowledge on a bilateral base – is promoted. By implementing different design options in applied projects of the Knowledge Construction Lab (e.g., PATONGO) and by analysing existing variations within and between internet portals, further insights in its mode of operation should be gained.


  • Wodzicki, K., Schwämmlein, E., Moskaliuk, J. (in press).'Actually, I wanted to learn': Study-related knowledge exchange on social networking sites, The Internet and Higher Education, In Press, Accepted Manuscript, Available online 30 May 2011, ISSN 1096-7516, DOI: 10.1016/j.iheduc.2011.05.008.
  • Wodzicki, K., Schwämmlein, E. & Cress, U. (2009). How to Get Proper Profiles? Psychological Perspective on Social Networking Sites. In U. Cress, V. Dimitrova, & M. Specht (Eds.), Learning in the Synergy of Multiple Disciplines, Proceedings of the EC-TEL 2009, LNCS Vol. 5794. Berlin/Heidelberg: Springer.