Infoscience

Thesis

Information exchange in user communities: a study of individual level determinants and firm level effects in the U.S. snowsports industry

In this dissertation I examine information processing in communities of product technology users – that is the question of how individual level information exchange in networks of personal relationships influences firm-level outcomes. I draw on research in the field of user innovation, personal influence, social network analysis and technological change to study how communities of product technology users influence a firm's competitive position in the U.S. freestyle skiing industry. My empirical data stems from qualitative interviews, archival records and a survey of ski enthusiasts. The results show that besides exposure to industry information, exposure to interpersonal information exchange influences an individual's perception of how credible a selected ski firm is when it comes to driving change within the industry. The dissertation makes several important contributions. First, it sheds light into the determinants of individual level information exchange in user communities and emphasizes potential effects on firm-level outcomes. Second, the dissertation helps managers to understand how user communities can be used to develop, launch, and market innovative products and ideas.

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