Motivating Users to Engage and Collaborate in an Online Community

“Motivating Users to Engage and Collaborate in an Online Community” is a Master’s Thesis written by Camilla Boel and Christina Jensen, spring 2013. Both authors are now Master of Science in Information Technology from the IT University in Copenhagen with a major in Digital Design and Communication.

Read Thesis: Orange Act


The aim of this thesis is demonstrate how a conceptual design for an online community can be developed through an ethnographic approach to qualitative research complemented by a user-centered design approach. The concept is aimed at Roskilde Festival’s target group, and shares the festival’s ambition to actively engage their audience in participation and collaboration. The primary focus of this thesis is on how to foster collaboration and motivate for user participation in online communities.

The concept is born out of a combination of theoretical framework and qualitative interviews. The theoretical framework mainly examines literature on characteristics of communities and how to build a “sense of community” (McMillan & Chavis, 1986), as well as literature on online user-led content creation and collaboration (Bruns, 2007). The theory further provides a frame for how to motivate users to participate, including theories on gamification and other design principles (Zichermann & Cunningham, 2011; Nielsen, 2006). Furthermore, the “festival” phenomenon (Harsløf, forthcoming; Falassi, 1987) is examined to illustrate the context the thesis is operating in.

Theory and findings emphasize that users will connect with strangers online if they share a common interest, and that they will join an online community if the community meets their needs. Users participate on social media sites in order to gain knowledge and experience in return, and to achieve a feeling of being part of something bigger. They are willing to work hard for a project if it is within their hobby and interest, emphasizing an intrinsic motivation. Furthermore it becomes clear that users like to help each other, and they seek to make online contributions that are valuable to others. Theory and findings additionally show that users are motivated to participate if they gain recognition for their work, and that gamifications elements can be a way to motivate users’ participation.

The developed community, “Orange ACT”, is based on the above-mentioned theories and findings and through the interaction design discipline using a user-centered design approach.  The concept development phase consists of ideation, sketching, prototyping, user testing, and refinements. Orange ACT revolves around knowledge sharing, where keywords are empowerment and openness. Members of the Orange ACT community collaborate around art, creativity, and Roskilde Festival. The concept is in line with Roskilde Festival’s values and ambitions, and embraces the presented theories and findings from the qualitative interviews. Orange ACT serves to illustrate how qualitative research complemented with a theoretical framework can become an integrated part of a creative design process, and how participants’ behavior and motivations can be translated into a design that includes social objects and features.

This report concludes that the results of the qualitative interviews found through the analysis can be employed to develop online communities focusing on motivation for user participation. The report will furthermore discusses distinct aspects of the project, such as the presented concept is valid in theory; however whether or not Orange ACT will be successful highly depends on the implementation and execution of the community.


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About wearesospeciale

From September 2012 to March 2013 we will be writing our Master Thesis. We are both Digital Design and Communication students at the IT-University in Copenhagen, Denmark. Here you will be able to follow our process, and when we get to the point of concept development we hope that you will share your ideas, criticism and general input with us.

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