Our paper focuses on the effect that offline interactions have on the sociability of participants of online communities. We present the findings of a longitudinal study of an invitation-only online community of cigar smokers, tracing the interactions of its participants over a period of eighteen months. We identify the emergence of distinctive patterns of interaction that persist over the course of the study, and explore their effect on the sociability of the participants of the online community. The identified interactions are associated with a mix of behaviors that include play, trading and gifting, and entail the exchange or flow of informational and material objects. Our findings demonstrate that offline interactions play a significant role for the social networking of participants on online communities, and have a positive effect on their online sociability over time. We provide novel insights regarding online participation and offline interactivity, significant for both academics and practitioners.
Angelopoulos, S., & Merali, Y. (2015). Bridging the Divide Between Virtual and Embodied Spaces: Exploring the Effect of Offline Interactions on the Sociability of Participants of Topic-Specific Online Communities. In 48th Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences (HICSS) (pp. 1994-2002). IEEE Computer Society. https://doi.org/doi: 10.1109/HICSS.2015.239