The Sharing of Wonderful Ideas: Influence and Interaction in Online Communities of Creators

Sylvan, E. "The Sharing of Wonderful Ideas: Influence and Interaction in Online Communities of Creators"


This thesis presents a new framework for understanding how communities of creators share work, influence one another's creative processes, and learn from one another. I introduce the concept of Online Communities of Creators (OCOCs), which are online communities where the core activity is sharing personal creations. These communities can play an important part in the development of the Creative Society by providing venues for people to encourage each other's creative processes and output. By fostering each other's desires to create and share, these communities help individuals to experience the joy of designing, creating, and sharing. Through these explorations, people develop skills important to their personal development and their ability to participate in the modern workplace.

I analyze how ideas spread through OCOCs using the framework for diffusion of innovation developed by Everett Rogers. I map specific behaviors in OCOCs to Roger's five stages of adoption of innovation: awareness, interest, evaluation, trial and adoption. Within OCOCs each of these stages represent deepening understanding of other community members' work.

Using a mixed-methods approach of ethnography and social network analysis, I study two specific OCOCs: the Computer Clubhouse Village and the Scratch online community. Both of these communities are designed to facilitate learning with computers. The Village enables members of network of socially-supported computer clubs to share their work, their concerns, and their selves. The Scratch site is a new web community for people sharing work created with the Scratch programming environment.

The thesis focuses on four topics: forms of participation, network diffusion of ideas, individuals' adoption of ideas, and identifying influentials. I report on how different social and project-related participation support the communities. I discuss how a particular technology I developed diffused through an OCOC. I analyze which community members' projects enter the "trial" stage of adoption. Finally I describe what creator and project factors predict influence in OCOCs.

As I considered the various research topics this thesis addresses, I created technologies and developed some design guidelines for OCOCs. I introduce two of these technologies the Village Profile Survey and the Village Visualizer and describe the motivation, design, and impact of these tools. I also describe a design philosophy that motivates these and other projects I have worked on and outline both design principles and ethnical concerns for the development of OCOCs.

Related Content