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Chitu Okoli

Posted on Jul 11, 2010 in Research summaries

Agerwal et al 2008: Editorial Overview—The Interplay Between Digital and Social Networks

Ritu Agarwal, Anil K. Gupta, Robert Kraut 2008. Editorial Overview—The Interplay Between Digital and Social Networks. Information Systems Research (19:3), pp. 243-252. September 2008.

I read this paper because it introduced a special issue that includes some research on open source software; thus, it would hopefully situation OSS research in a broader context. This special issue covers seven articles in ISR 19:3 and three articles in ISR 19:4.

  • Rationale: This paper introduces an ISR special issue on the interplay between digital and social networks. Both digital networks and social networks are tremendously important today; however, possibly their greatest value is in when social networks are enabled by digital networks. This special issue focuses on this intersection.
  • Objectives: As an editorial overview, this paper highlights importance of the interplay between social and digital networks, introduces the papers in the special issue, and describes the review process followed for selecting the articles.
  • Key questions: What is the research domain of this special issue? What is the scope of scholarly activity? What are the studies selected for this special issue? What was the review process followed?
  • Theoretical background: Other than general reference to some work on digital networks and social networks, this overview does not present a theoretical perspective per se other than in its presentation of the articles involved.
  • Methodology: The "methodology" involved guest editing of the special issue.
  • Data sources if any: There were 72 articles submitted, and 10 were selected.
  • Key findings:

    • Three distinctions are made between the interplay of digital and social networks and general research on ditial or social networks: 1) digital networks enable very large-scale social networks. 2) Digital networks creates new interaction dynamics for social networks, compared to traditional media of communication. 3) User-generated content plays a significant role.
    • Scope of scholarly activity: 1) While most submissions were from business schools, computer science and communication studies departments also made significant numbers of submissions. 2) Over a third of the submissions were on online communities/electronic networks/social networks. 3) A third of the studies used archival secondary data, and most of the rest used primary quantitative data.
  • Key contribution to knowledge: Other than the individual contributions of the articles, the main contribution I note is the distinctions made regarding the interplay of digital and social networks.
  • Key implications: There are five research streams identified from this special issue: 1) Digitally enabled networks are qualitatively different from networks in conventional organizations. 2) There are strong parallels between digitally enabled social networks and various offline phenomena. 3) Although digitally enabled networks are different in many ways, they are valuable sources for studying basic social processes. 4) Some research attempts "to identify sociotechnical designs that help" these networks better achieve their goals. 5) There has been little research on the transforming potential of digital social networks to change the nature and structure of large organizations.

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