Tuesday, April 12, 2005
Apparently “information exchange' is the No. 1 reason people join virtual communities” Initially this simple statement seems to be inadequate. However, if you consider what is information, than the above statement seems quite reasonable. For example, Monash School of Information and Management subscribes to the definition of information as being: "The content and context of communication", thus information exchange is essentially communication. Moreover, Shapiro/Varian in their brilliant book “Information Rules” defined the term information as: “Essentially, anything that can be digitized … is information”. This leads to understanding that anything which is digitized can be exchanged online or at least electronically and therefore one of the best places to acquire and experience digitized (information) goods. In the same book Shapiro/Varians suggest that ‘Information is an “Experience Good”’ An experience good is something consumers must experience it to value it. Unlike in the non-virtual world the cost of experiencing digitized things is very low. An experience is always something which is new. In non-virtual world newness of a product is what provides experience. “But information is an experience good every time it’s consumed” (Shapiro/Varian, Information Rules, Harvard Business School) “Knowledge and information are, in general, a valuable currency or social resource in virtual communities" (Binik, Cantor, Ochs, & Meana, 1997; Hiltz & Wellman, 1997; Rheingold, 1993a; Sproull & Faraj, 1997). In the context of the above, Ridings/Gefen suggestion that the no.1 reason people join VCs is information exchange seems to be well founded. Furthermore, since information is valuable – because of its experiential attribute – as well as “affordable” people will congregate / form VCs since that’s where they get their “shot” for satisfying their experiential needs especially since VCs provide experiences, which are most closely matched to the conscious or unconscious desires of the members. “Virtual communities, providing a subset of the information available on the Internet, are unique in that most of their content is member-generated” (Filipczak, 1998). Naturally, information exchange isn’t the only reason, however, it is the predominant reason.