Latent Groups in Online Communities: a Longitudinal Study in Wikipedia
Journal article, 2018
Research on online communities has shown that content production involves manifest groups and latent users. This paper conceptualizes a related but distinct phenomenon of latent groups. We ground this contribution in a longitudinal study on the Finnish Wikipedia (2007–2014). In the case of experts working on content within their area of expertise, individuals can constitute a group that maintains itself over time. In such a setting, it becomes viable to view the group as an acting unit instead of as individual nodes in a network. Such groups are able to sustain their activities even over periods of inactivity. Our theoretical contribution is the conceptualization of latent groups, which includes two conditions: 1) a group is capable of reforming after inactivity (i.e., dormant), and 2) a group is difficult to observe to an outsider (i.e., non-manifest).