- social networks
- online groups/online communities
- social impact of the internet and new media
- academic communication and the internet
- rational choice theory
- online knowledge sharing
Uwe Matzat is an Assistant Professor of Sociology at the Department of Technology Management, Eindhoven University of Technology (The Netherlands). After completing his Ph.D. Thesis at the Interuniversity Center for for Social Science Theory and Methodology (ICS) he was working as a Postdoc at the University of Groningen (NL) and as an Assistant Professor at the Heinrich-Heine-University Duesseldorf (Germany). He is a member of the board of the German Society for Online Research that is organizing the regular international conference series General Online Research (http://www.gor.de). His research interests include the question how social conditions, e.g. characteristics of social networks, affect online interaction and thereby mediate the social impact of the internet.
"Academic Communication and Internet Discussion Groups: Transfer of Information or Creation of Social Contacts?" by Uwe Matzat, published by Social Networks (Jul 2004). Link to Publication
This paper analyzes the role of Internet Discussion Groups (IDGs) in informal academic communication. It examines the claims in the literature that there are general benefits of academic mailing lists and newsgroups for researchers. Different hypotheses relating to potential contact and information benefits are tested with data of a random sample of English and Dutch university researchers within the humanities, the social and natural sciences. The outcomes support hypotheses about a few information effects and, more often, contact benefits of IDGs. Researchers build up weak contacts that make their research more visible and that make them more aware of other researchersí work. These weak contacts are useful for the reception of new research papers. As a result, IDGs provide access to social capital. However, contrary to what is stated in the literature, the data shows no evidence for expectations about equalizing effects on the general structure of academic communication. IDGs do not reduce inequalities in the opportunities to use informal communication channels.
"The Social Embeddedness of Academic Online Groups as a Norm Generating Structure: A Test of the Coleman Model on Norm Emergence" by Uwe Matzat, published by Computational and Mathematical Organization Theory (Oct 2004). Link to Publication
This paper analyzes two questions. First, under which conditions does a norm emerge in academic online groups that prescribes members to help others during group discussions? Second, what effects does such a norm, and other social conditions, have on the contributing behavior of researchers during online discussions? It is argued that the Coleman model (1990) on the emergence of norms points to an important condition that facilitates the realization of such a norm. According to the Coleman model (1990) a dense network among members of a group tends to strengthen a group norm. The paper makes a distinction between different kinds of academic online groups. The criterion of the distinction is the extent to which within the membership a highly integrated research community exists. An online group with a highly integrated research community is called to have a high degree of social embeddedness of its online communication in offline networks. It is hypothesized that a high degree of embeddedness has a number of effects. A higher degree of embeddedness leads to a stronger help-prescribing norm. The stronger the norm the more researchers send online answers to questions of their co-members during public online discussions. Furthermore, a high degree of embeddedness increases the answering behavior of researchers directly because it provides opportunities to gain reputation within the academic community through contributing to the discussion. The study makes use of data that consist of a combination of survey data and observed data of the communication behavior of researchers in about 50 international academic emailing lists. The results provide evidence for the expected effect of embeddedness on the strength of the norm and for the effect of embeddedness on the answering behavior of researchers. The strength of the help-prescribing norm indirectly influences the answering behavior.