The Elgar Companion to Innovation and Knowledge Creation
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The Elgar Companion to Innovation and Knowledge Creation

Edited by Harald Bathelt, Patrick Cohendet, Sebastian Henn and Laurent Simon

This unique Companion provides a comprehensive overview and critical evaluation of existing conceptualizations and new developments in innovation research. It draws on multiple perspectives of innovation, knowledge and creativity from economics, geography, history, management, political science and sociology. The Companion brings together leading scholars to reflect upon innovation as a concept (Part I), innovation and institutions (Part II), innovation and creativity (Part III), innovation, networking and communities (Part IV), innovation in permanent spatial settings (Part V), innovation in temporary, virtual and open settings (Part VI), innovation, entrepreneurship and market making (Part VII), and the governance and management of innovation (Part VIII).
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Chapter 33: Knowledge collaboration in hybrid virtual communities

Gernot Grabher and Oliver Ibert


This chapter is concerned with two widely shared misunderstandings related to the notion of virtual knowledge creation. First, virtual is often associated or even equated with immateriality. As a consequence, virtual knowledge collaboration is mainly seen as a viable option in digital knowledge domains but not in more traditional fields. Second, “virtual” is often understood as being derived from the “real”. Virtual interaction thus is treated as a deficient substitute for face-to-face interaction. Against this background we use data obtained from netnography undertaken in nine virtual hybrid communities to explore more systematically the material preconditions of virtual knowledge collaboration. We also specify specific benefits of distanciated relations in knowledge collaboration that so far have been understated or overlooked. Our findings demonstrate that the social cohesion of virtual communities is partly enhanced through organized forms of co-presence and that online knowledge collaboration is embedded in material offline environments. Of course, collaboration in virtual hybrid communities lacks the media richness and the entire spectrum of non-verbal cues through which face-to-face encounters ease mutual understanding. Yet distinct features of online interaction, such as quasi-anonymity, asynchronicity and virtual memory do provide unique opportunities for collaboration unattainable in classical face-to-face contexts.

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