Community-Building with Web-Based Systems – Investigating a Hybrid Community of Students
This paper examines WiInf-Central , the ‘virtual homeplace’ of a student community (on Information Systems) at the University of Hamburg, and focuses on processes of social identity and community-building. Drawing on social-identity theory and communities of practice as our theoretical basis, we illustrate that the processes of identity-building and positive in-group evaluation triggered by WiInf-Central serve as a means for students of Information Systems to assert themselves against faculty members and students of other disciplines. While our study reveals strong mechanisms of social exclusion, inclusion mechanisms have to be assessed in a more differentiated way. In particular, our study shows the emergence of several ‘subgroups’, which appear largely closed to other community members. We ascribe this to both the self-organized and the hybrid – half virtual, half real – nature of the community based on WiInf-Central.