A variety of information technology artifacts, such as those supporting reputation management and digital archives of past interactions, are commonly deployed to support virtual communities. Despite the ubiquity of these artifacts, research on the impact of various IT-based features on virtual community communication is still limited. Without such research, the mechanisms through which information technologies influence community success are not well-understood, limiting the design of community infrastructures that can enhance interaction in the community and minimize dysfunction. This paper proposes that identity management is a critical imperative in virtual communities and concerns related to communication of identity serve to shape an individual’s interactions and perceptions in the community. Sensitivity to this perspective can help in drawing design guidelines for the IT infrastructure supporting the community. Drawing upon the social psychology literature, this paper proposes an identity-based view to understanding how the use of IT-based features in virtual communities can improve community sustainability. Specifically, identity consonance, defined as the perceived fit between a focal person’s belief of his or her identity and the recognition and verification of this identity by other community members, is proposed as a core construct that mediates the relationship between the use of community IT artifacts and member satisfaction and participation. We analyze four types of community IT artifacts and suggest that they influence identity consonance. The conceptual framework and propositions presented in this article offer a fresh perspective on virtual communities and suggest important implications for the design of the supporting IT infrastructure.
Ma, Meng, "An Identity-Based Theory of Information Technology Design for Sustaining Virtual Communities" (2004). ICIS 2004 Proceedings. 44.