Remedial Boundary Work and Gatekeeper Centrality in a Virtual Entrepreneur Community
Jessica J. Santana, Assistant Professor, Technology Management
Frontiers in Communication 6:753329, published: January 17, 2022
Virtual communities of practice invoke novel forms of boundary work that are newly visible via publicly recorded discourse and failure narratives. This boundary work has critical implications for occupational knowledge, membership, and stratification. Building on social exchange theorization of network gatekeeping, the author tests the assumption that centralized peers are more competitive gatekeepers, in that they react more negatively to remedial narratives. The author tests this theory using empirical data from a virtual entrepreneur community on Reddit. The author finds that a peer’s tenure in the community network is directly related to exclusive, competitive boundary work of remedial members. However, by looking beyond the network structure to the content of the tie, the author finds that exclusive boundary work is not as impactful as inclusive, collaborative boundary work in this open network setting. The author builds on relational cohesion and exchange commitment theory to explain how remedial practitioners circumvent central community gatekeepers through failure narratives that provoke empathy from peripheral peers who experience higher uncertainty than core peers. Understanding these dynamics is critical to promoting recovery from failure and vitality of the community of practice.
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Frontiers of Communication