Project Duration: January 2010 – December 2011
The goal of this projects is to understand what motivates or dissuades individuals from voluntarily join and actively participate in a wireless community. Wireless Communities consist of people sharing their private wireless Internet signal with other people from the community.
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Wireless communities are an interesting phenomena which recently emerged thanks to the wide-spread diffusion of private wireless networks and flat-rate broadband Internet connections. They aim at creating community networks by sharing private WLAN access points among their members. In this way, they offer a valuable alternative to the conventional operator-centric approaches for providing wireless internet services.
We can distinguish two types of communities: the so-called “pure” Communities, which are purely self-organized and the “hybrid” ones, which are supported by a firm. One of the main problems of the so-called “pure” communities is the difficulty of attracting enough members and motivating them to share their resources with the community. The newer “hybrid” forms of wireless communities try to overcome this motivation issue by recompensing members with suitable incentives. The company that supports them can offer incentives such as revenue sharing, security, equipment and free network access. In return the firm is allowed to exploit the network by selling connectivity to non-members and selling hardware or advertising. Offering incentives seems to allow Wi-Coms to grow beyond the mainly local character of “pure” communities. In fact companies such as FON are able to attract members worldwide. As the success of hybrid Wi-Coms suggests, incentives seem fundamental for a sustained existence and future development of Wi-Coms. However, as they only emerged recently they have not yet been studied in depth. That’s why this project wants to mainly focus its research on these newer hybrid communities.
Understanding what motivates members to join and actively participate in a wireless community is the key research issue of the Wi-Com project. For wireless communities, the ability to reach a critical mass of members and to motivate them to share their access points and Internet connections is a major challenge. Being able to identify the importance of different motivations for participation will therefore help to identify possible developments and sustained existence of Wi-Coms.
Existing research about this topic has several limitations. In order to address these shortcomings the Wi-Com project wants to focus on the following points:
- Study “hybrid” wireless communities (as opposed to “pure” ones)
- Develop a theoretical model explaining motivations for participation in a Wi-Com on the basis of existing motivation theories, studies of other online community types and interviews with members.
- Collect further empirical evidence by using a large-scale survey of active members of a large hybrid Wi-Com like FON and analyzing it using quantitative models.
- Look at how motivations evolve over time using a successive round of interviews at a year of distance with the same members interviewed before.
- 1st STEP:
Development of a Theoretical Model which is able to explain participation in hybrid Wi-Coms, based on:
–> Literature Review of past studies of motivations
–> Literature Review of similar communities
- 2nd STEP:
Refine the model with the help of data gathered from qualitative analysis:
–> content analysis of Wi-Com Forums
–> 40 Interviews of active Swiss FON Members
- 3rd STEP:
Test the refined model by:
–> collecting data from a large-scale Survey
–> analyzing the collected data with more quantitative methods (eg. structural equation models)
- 4th STEP:
Check how motivations evolve over time:
–> successive round of Interviews with the same members interviewed before
40 FON members in Switzerland will be interviewed in order to collect in-depth information about members experience with wireless communities and their motivations for participation.
The survey will be addressed to a large sample of FON members worldwide in order to be able to collect as much data as possible from all over the world.