Participating or Not Participating? A Sociomaterial Perspective of the Embeddedness of Online Communities in Everyday Life

Geri Harris, School of Information Systems, Technology & Management, University of New South Wales
Babak Abedin, Faculty of Engineering & IT, University of Technology Sydney


Online communities are increasingly becoming a venue for socializing, engaging in politics, and conducting business. Ironically, the same enabling social–media technology is encroaching into everyday life and reconfiguring relations of participation. Yet, while participation in online communities has been widely studied empirically, theoretical aspects of this social phenomenon need further investigation. This paper uses a sociomaterial perspective to further develop theoretical explanation of participation in online communities and the impacts of not participating online. A sociomaterial view of online community participation decenters the human participant and recognises the agency of technology, thus creating a richer understanding than epistemological paradigms. Using converging hermeneutic circles, the paper first reviews literature for evidence of sociomaterial applications to online community research, and then proposes a framework for expressing participation in online communities from a sociomaterial perspective. Subsequently, implications of the findings and the potential for future studies are discussed.