CHS: Small: Collaborative Research: Modeling the Ecological Dynamics of Online Organizations

  • Shaw, Aaron (PD/PI)

Project: Research project

Project Details


Could Wikipedia have grown if Facebook had already achieved widespread adoption? Do new subreddits compete with existing subreddits for contributors if their topic areas overlap? Is the evolving world of online communities characterized better by competitive struggle for resources or by symbiotic relationships that support a web of interdependent communities? More generally, how does the landscape of existing online communities shape the growth, performance, and impact of a new community? Answering these questions requires an ecological understanding of community success that accounts for the complex dynamic interactions between communities and their environments. Established approaches to communities treat internal characteristics as mechanisms for community growth and productivity. Yet they struggle to make accurate predictions about which communities will grow and which will decline—perhaps because they ignore factors like the availability of pools of participants and competition between communities. We propose to develop an ecological approach to studying online communities. Our goal is to develop and to rigorously test new theoretical models that explicitly consider three types of ecological processes moving granular to broad: (1) the growth and survival of single communities in ecological contexts (2) the resource-based origins of competitive and mutualistic relationships between communities (3) the dynamic partitioning of available informational and labor resources in an entire population of communities. Throughout these studies our focus will be the essential resources on which active communities depend: content and users.
Effective start/end date8/15/197/31/23


  • National Science Foundation (IIS-1910202-001)


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