Project

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Understanding motivations of wireless communities participants

Applicant Cantoni Lorenzo
Number 127006
Funding scheme Project funding (Div. I-III)
Research institution New Media in Education Laboratory (NewMinE) Facoltà di scienze della comunicazione Universita della Svizzera italiana
Institution of higher education Università della Svizzera italiana - USI
Main discipline Communication sciences
Start/End 01.01.2010 - 31.12.2011
Approved amount 200'408.00
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All Disciplines (3)

Discipline
Communication sciences
Sociology
Psychology

Keywords (4)

wireless communities; motivation; social meaning; wireless local area networks

Lay Summary (English)

Lead
Lay summary
The emergence of wireless communities is one of the most interesting phenomena in the telecommunication industry. In reality, while numerous wireless communities have emerged in large metropolitan areas all over the world, their development has been limited by the difficulty of attracting a sufficient number of members and motivating them to contribute their resources (access points and Internet connections) to the community. However, a new hybrid form of wireless community is now emerging. These communities are still built by individuals that contribute their own access points to build a community network, but they are supported by a firm that offers them a proven solution and incentives like revenue sharing, subsidized equipment and free network access. In return, the firm is allowed to exploit the network by selling connectivity to non members or offering other services.The rapid growth of these communities (the example of FON being the most illustrative case - www.fon.com), suggests the importance of overcoming the motivation issue by recompensing members with the right set of incentives and provides insight on the potential of such communities.The key research issue for appraising the possible development and sustained existence of wireless communities is to understand what motivates members to join and actively participate (contributing their own resources) to these communities. Yet, because wireless communities are a recent phenomenon, existing research about this topic has several limitations that this project intends to address. This project intends to: 1) develop a theoretical model drawing on existing motivation theories, studies of other online communities types and a first round of qualitative interviews with some members in order to consider specific motivations for participating in such communities;2) collect further empirical evidence using a large-scale survey of active members of a large hybrid wireless community like FON and analyze it using quantitative models; and 3) look at how motivations evolve over time using a successive round of interviews with the same members interviewed before (thus approaching the problem with a longitudinal perspective).
Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 21.02.2013

Responsible applicant and co-applicants

Employees

Publications

Publication
A Review of Motivations in Virtual Communities
Camponovo Giovanni (2011), A Review of Motivations in Virtual Communities, Academic Publishing Limited, Reading.
Motivations of hybrid wireless community participants a qualitative analysis of Swiss FON members
Camponovo Giovanni, Picco-Schwendener Anna (2011), Motivations of hybrid wireless community participants a qualitative analysis of Swiss FON members, IEEE, Como.
A Model for Investigating Motivations of Hybrid Wireless Community Participants
Camponovo Giovanni, Picco-Schwendener Anna (2010), A Model for Investigating Motivations of Hybrid Wireless Community Participants, IEEE, Athens.
Wi-Com project: understanding motivations of wireless community members
Picco-Schwendener Anna (2010), Wi-Com project: understanding motivations of wireless community members, Università di Lugano, Lugano.
Motivations and Barriers of Participation in Community Wireless Networks: The Case of Fon
Camponovo Giovanni, Picco-Schwendener Anna, Cantoni Lorenzo, Motivations and Barriers of Participation in Community Wireless Networks: The Case of Fon, in Abdelaal Abdel Nasser (ed.), IGI Global, London ?.

Scientific events

Active participation

Title Type of contribution Title of article or contribution Date Place Persons involved
La ricerca e lo sviluppo: workshop sulla strategia 17.09.2010 Locarno, Switzerland
International Summit of Community Wireless Networks 12.08.2010 Wien, Austria


Communication with the public

Communication Title Media Place Year
New media (web, blogs, podcasts, news feeds etc.) Wi-Com, Understanding Motivations of Wireless Comunity Members http://www.wi-com.org/ Italian-speaking Switzerland Western Switzerland Rhaeto-Romanic Switzerland German-speaking Switzerland International 01.01.2010

Abstract

The recent emergence of wireless communities is one of the most interesting phenomena in the telecommunication industry. Because of the widespread diffusion of private wireless networks and flat-rate broadband Internet connections, the bottom-up federation of private WLAN access points into community networks now represents an increasingly attractive and viable alternative to the conventional top-down operator-centric approaches based on cellular networks for providing wireless communication services. Drawing on the similarities with peer-to-peer networks, some industry analysts even claim that wireless communities may bring a “napsterization” of wireless communication and possibly realize the vision of a free wireless Internet for everyone everywhere. In reality, while numerous purely self-organized wireless communities have emerged in several urban areas all over the world, their development has been initially limited by various commercial, technical and political barriers. Among them, the key problem is the difficulty of attracting enough members and motivating them to share their resources (access points and Internet connections) with the community. In contrast, a new “hybrid” form of wireless communities is now emerging and is developing at a remarkable pace. These communities are still built organically by individuals who share their own network infrastructure within the community, but are supported by a firm that offers them a proven solution and incentives like revenue sharing, subsidized equipment and free network access. In return, the firm is allowed to exploit the network by selling connectivity to non members, selling hardware or advertising. The rapid growth of these communities (the example of FON, capable of attracting several hundred thousand members in two years, being the most illustrative case), suggests the importance of overcoming the motivation issue by recompensing members with suitable incentives and provides insight on their potential of such communities.Accordingly, it is widely recognized that the key research issue for appraising the possible development and sustained existence of wireless communities is to understand what motivates members to join and actively participate (contributing their own resources) to these communities. Yet, because wireless communities are a recent phenomenon, existing research about this topic has several limitations that this project intends to address: 1) it focuses on “pure” communities but overlooks “hybrid” communities, 2) it lacks in terms of theoretical models that explain participation in wireless communities, 3) there is only sparse and weak empirical validation and 4) it focuses mainly on motivations for entry in a community but not for sustained active participation.This project intends to address these shortcomings by 1) expressly focusing on hybrid wireless communities, 2) developing a theoretical model drawing on existing motivation theories, studies of other online communities types and a first round of qualitative interviews with some members in order to consider specific motivations for participating in such communities, 3) collecting further empirical evidence using a large-scale survey of active members of a large hybrid wireless community like FON and analyzing it using quantitative models like structural equation models and 4) looking at how motivations evolve over time using a successive round of interviews with the same members interviewed before (thus approaching the problem with a longitudinal perspective).Besides its scientific significance, this research has a practical relevance as well. In particular, understanding what motivates members to participate in such communities can help organizations building wireless communities and realizing their potential. These can be non-profit organizations wanting to build a free wireless Internet for everyone, municipal initiatives offering wireless services to their citizens or firms (e.g. start-ups and operators) wanting to make business with a community model. Moreover, these insights could help develop future mobile communication systems based on self-organization (like large-scale wireless self-organized ad-hoc networks) because despite the underlying technology may change at a rapid pace, members motivations shall be more stable.
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