APJIS Asia Pacific Journal of Information Systems

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The Journal for Information Professionals

Asia Pacific Journal of Information Systems (APJIS) is published by the Korea Society
of Management Information Systems (KMIS), which is the largest professional institute
in the field of information systems in Korea.

ISSN 2288-5404 (Print) / ISSN 2288-6818 (Online)

Editor : Hee-Woong Kim

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Date March 2010
Vol. No. Vol. 20 No. 1
DOI
Page 57~79
Title The Effects of Multi-identity on Ones Psychological State and the Quality of Contribution in Virtual Communities:A Socio-Psychological Perspective
Author Ayoung Suh, Kyung-shik Shin, Jumin Lee
Keyword Virtual Community, Self-discrepancy, Multi-identity, Sense of Virtual Community, Perceived Privacy Rights
Abstract In a virtual community, one can possess multiple identities and pretend to be different by creating self-identity in contrast with his or her actual self. Does false identity undermine the qualitative growth of a virtual community by reducing members??accountability? Or does it stimulate their contributive behaviors by ensuring freedom of speech? It is imperative to understand the effects of multi-identity considering the distinct properties of a virtual community in which people easily change their identities at little or no cost. To answer these questions, we adopted the concept of self-discrepancy the social psychology theory rooted in the concept of the self and developed a theoretical model to predict quality of contribution of the individual member in virtual communities. Based on the self-discrepancy theory, we first identified two different domains of the self: (1) an "actual self" that consists of attributes that the person believes he or she currently possesses in real life and (2) a "cyber self" that consists of attributes the person believes he or she possesses in a virtual community. Next, we derived an index for two different types of self-discrepancy by using the differences between the actual and the cyber identities: Personal Self-discrepancy and Social Self-discrepancy. Personal Self-discrepancy reflects the degree of discrepancy between actual and cyber identity regarding a persons intelligence, education, and expertise. Social Self-discrepancy reflects the degree of discrepancy between actual and cyber identity regarding a persons morality, sociability, and accordance with social norms. Finally, we linked them with sense of virtual community, perceived privacy rights, and quality of contribution to examine how a multi-identity influences an individuals psychological state and contributive behaviors in a virtual community. The results of the analysis based on 266 respondents showed that Social Self-discrepancy negatively influenced both the Sense of Virtual Community and Perceived Privacy Rights, while Personal Self-discrepancy negatively influenced only Perceived Privacy Rights, thereby resulting in reduced quality of contribution in virtual communities. Based on the results of this analysis, we can explain the dysfunctions of multi-identity in virtual communities. First, people who pretend to be different by engaging in socially undesirable behaviors under their alternative identities are more likely to suffer lower levels of psychological wellbeing and thus experience lower levels of sense of virtual community than others. Second, people do not perceive a high level of privacy rights reflecting catharsis, recovery, or autonomy, even though they different selves and engage in socially undesirable behaviors in a virtual community. Third, people who pretend to be different persons in terms of their intelligence, education, or expertise also indirectly debase the quality of contribution by decreasing perceived privacy rights. The results suggest that virtual community managers should pay more attention to the negative influences exercised by multi-identity on the quality of contribution, thereby controlling the need to alternative identities in virtual communities. We hope that more research will be conducted on this underexplored area of multi-identity and that our theoretical framework will serve as a useful conceptual tool for all endeavors.

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