Coordinating Efforts in Virtual Communities: Examining Network Governance in Open Source

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Glen W. Sagers, Michael H. Dickey and Molly McLure Wasko, Florida State University


While there is growing interest in the phenomenon of virtual communities, to date we know little about the structural dynamics underlying one type of virtual community, open source software communities. Open source communities (OSCs) are used to coordinate the voluntary efforts of members to create complex software products. We propose that OSCs utilize a network form of governance to coordinate activities to ensure collective interests are achieved. In contrast to the formal exchange structures of market transactions based on contracts and bureaucratic structures based on hierarchical controls, network structures are an alternative governance form based on social interactions and informal controls. In this paper, we present a theoretical model examining network governance in OSCs, and suggest that OSC project success is dependent upon the ability of individuals to coordinate and safeguard interactions, which is enhanced by the use of social controls. We conclude by presenting our strategy for empirically testing the theoretical model.


Open source software, virtual communities, network governance



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