Emergent Lifecycle: The Tension between Knowledge Change and Knowledge Retention in Open Online Co-Production Communities

47 Pages Posted: 11 Dec 2014

See all articles by Gerald C. Kane

Gerald C. Kane

Boston College

Jeremiah X. Johnson

University of Michigan at Ann Arbor - School of Natural Resources & Environment

Ann Majchrzak

University of Southern California - Marshall School of Business

Date Written: December 9, 2014

Abstract

Online co-production communities often face a challenge of whether to change or retain the knowledge they have created. Disparate and often conflicting theoretical models have been used to explain how these communities respond to this tension. We conducted a case study of how one online co-production community – the nine-year history of the Wikipedia article on Autism – handles this tension. We find that the nature of the change-retain tension and the community’s response to it fluctuates considerably over the life of the community. These changes bear striking similarities to processes associated with traditional software development lifecycle, despite the absence of traditional control mechanisms. What initially appear to be conflicts in the extant literature actually describe different roles and production focus at the different stages of development. Disruptive events signal the need for the community to shift production focus, which often involves members joining and leaving the production process, rather than adopting new roles.

Suggested Citation

Kane, Gerald C. and Johnson, Jeremiah X. and Majchrzak, Ann, Emergent Lifecycle: The Tension between Knowledge Change and Knowledge Retention in Open Online Co-Production Communities (December 9, 2014). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2536089 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2536089

Gerald C. Kane

Boston College ( email )

140 Commonwealth Avenue
Chestnut Hill, MA 02467
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.profkane.com

Jeremiah X. Johnson

University of Michigan at Ann Arbor - School of Natural Resources & Environment ( email )

440 Church St.
Ann Arbor, MI 48109
United States

Ann Majchrzak (Contact Author)

University of Southern California - Marshall School of Business ( email )

701 Exposition Blvd
Los Angeles, CA California 90089
United States

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