Magda Hercheui


This research investigates how institutional carriers – from rules and power systems to cognitive schemas and information technology – influence the reproduction of centralized decision-making governance structures in virtual communities. Studying a group of four virtual communities, the findings show that community members invoke a variety of institutional carriers in order to try to legitimate actual centralized governance structures, which contradict their stated intentions of building decentralized decision making. The research illustrates in the micro-level how an institutionalized social structure is seen as meaningful by social actors in spite of being the opposite of what community members would rhetorically defend. The study explores how institutional carriers become sanction and legitimating mechanisms, which influence the reproduction of institutionalized behavior in virtual interactions, concluding on the relevance of understanding the institutional context to make sense of behavior patterns, which emerge from interactions in online environments in general and virtual communities in particular.