Working Together Alone in the Online Crowd: The effects of social motivations and individual knowledge backgrounds on participation and performance of members of online crowdsourcing platforms Defended on Friday, 14 March 2014

The overarching goal of this dissertation is to improve our understanding of the role of members’ social motivations and knowledge backgrounds in driving members’ participatory behaviors and their task performance on crowdsourcing platforms. Based on two studies, a longitudinal field experiment and a longitudinal, multi-method field study, we state that the possibility to interact with other members was an important driver of the development of group-based feelings of respect in this social environment and that on online crowdsourcing platforms feelings of pride and respect, and not identification, affect the level and duration of member activity and positive work of mouth behaviors. Feelings of pride and respect are each affected by different forms of status information, which further confirms the importance of actively managing the communication of social identity information on online crowdsourcing platforms. Together these studies offer compelling evidence that social motivations can and do play a role in affecting member engagement on online crowdsourcing platforms, which is crucially important in understanding why some online (crowdsourcing) platforms have success and others fail.

In a third study we investigated the knowledge-performance paradox in crowdsourcing creative problem-solving tasks. By analyzing over 6,000 contributions to 120 creative problem-solving challenges on an online crowdsourcing platform, we showed that the performance of participants of creative problem-solving tasks on online crowdsourcing platforms was best when they possessed knowledge that was related to the challenge context as well as knowledge that was unrelated to the challenge. With these findings we contribute to the ongoing debate on whether the effects of possessing domain-relevant knowledge on an individual’s performance on creative problem-solving are positive or negative, we argue that this effect is in fact contingent on an individual’s level of unrelated knowledge.


Crowdsourcing, engagement, pride, respect, identification, social identity, collective intelligence, online platforms, knowledge background, social motivation, group-oriented behaviour, participation

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