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Knowledge sharing discourse types used by key actors in online affinity spaces

Priya Sharma (Department of Learning and Performance Systems, The Pennsylvania State University - University Park, University Park, Pennsylvania, USA)
Qiyuan Li (Department of Learning and Performance Systems, The Pennsylvania State University - University Park, University Park, Pennsylvania, USA)
Susan M. Land (Department of Learning and Performance Systems, The Pennsylvania State University - University Park, University Park, Pennsylvania, USA)

Information and Learning Sciences

ISSN: 2398-5348

Article publication date: 18 June 2021

Issue publication date: 15 September 2021

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Abstract

Purpose

The growth of online social network sites and their conceptualization as affinity spaces makes them well suited for exploring how individuals share knowledge and practices around specific interests or affinities. The purpose of this study is to extend what is known about highly active/key actors in online affinity spaces, especially the ways in which they sustain and contribute to knowledge sharing.

Design/methodology/approach

This study analyzed 514 discussion posts gathered from an online affinity space on disease management. This study used a variety of methods to answer the research questions: the authors used discourse analyses to examine the conversations in the online affinity space, social network analyses to identify the structure of participation in the space and association rule mining and sentiment analysis to identify co-occurrence of discourse codes and sentiment of the discussions.

Findings

The results indicate that the quality and type of discourse varies considerably between key and other actors. Key actors’ discourse in the network serves to elaborate on and explain ideas and concepts, whereas other actors provide a more supportive role and engage primarily in storytelling.

Originality/value

This work extends what is known about informal mentoring and the role of key actors within affinity spaces by identifying specific discourse types and types of knowledge sharing that are characteristic of key actors. Also, this study provides an example of the use of a combination of rule mining association and sentiment analysis to characterize the nature of the affinity space.

Keywords

Citation

Sharma, P., Li, Q. and Land, S.M. (2021), "Knowledge sharing discourse types used by key actors in online affinity spaces", Information and Learning Sciences, Vol. 122 No. 9/10, pp. 671-687. https://doi.org/10.1108/ILS-09-2020-0211

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

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