I’ve been giving some thought to the types of community participation that Kozinets, R. V. (2010) details and how these relate to activity within the on-line Academy community I manage and support.
We definitely have some members of the community who fall somewhere between ‘Minglers’ and ‘Makers’. When I spot these individuals I will often try to recruit them as ‘champions’ for our Academy – volunteers who help other members and generally aid community building by helping ‘Newbies’ find their way around and understanding ‘the way things are done around here’.
I do know that our biggest population consists of ‘Lurkers’, as forum posts are read by many more members than are actively contributing.
The few ‘Makers’ we have tend to develop their own private forums, although I do my best to persuade them to open their forums to the wider Academy community. In the same way that I and my fellow students are conducting these Lifestream blogs ‘in the open’, with the potential for interesting and possibly valuable input from others not involved with the course, I’m sure our ‘Makers’ would benefit from input beyond those more immediately involved with the ‘central consumption activity’.
We do have a few ‘Interactors’, colleagues who join in discussions from other companies we work with and from our charity partners; these connections are useful in bringing a different perspective to the discourse.
On a very few occasions we’ve seen activity that might be described as coming from ‘Bashers’ (Correll, 1995). More often than not the root cause of the individual’s disgruntlement has been outside the online community and, once our Minglers and Makers have got involved the situation has been turned around. It doesn’t surprise me that former Bashers can readily become Minglers and Makers. Those I have encountered are ‘Bashers’ only because they see room for improvement, given the means to drive the improvement they seek their passion can often be put to good use.
The Academy’s forums are very much in their infancy but some of the private forums have members I would describe as ‘Insiders’. As yet there are no members I would describe as ‘Devotees’ or ‘Networkers’.
I do think that Kozinets’ way of classifying community participation is useful. Whilst I wouldn’t consider it a checklist of must have roles, I think absence or presence of a particular type of activity is likely to be a helpful indicator of how the community is maturing (in terms of duration rather than outlook) and could help identify inputs or stimuli that would help the community develop.
Kozinets, R. V. (2010) Chapter 2 ‘Understanding Culture Online’, Netnography: doing ethnographic research online. London: Sage. pp. 21-40.
Correll, C. (1995) The ethnography of an electronic bar, Article