[Air-L] Research on "passive" social media use?

Dominic Yeo skyrock at gmail.com
Wed Nov 4 09:57:23 PST 2009

Hi Lisbeth,

You might want to look up the literature on power law of participation:

Adamic, L. A., & Huberman, B. A. (2002). Zipf’s law and the Internet.
Glottometrics, 3(1), 143—50.

Adar, E., & Huberman, B. A. (2000, October 2). Free riding on
Gnutella. Retrieved October 30, 2008, from

Benkler, Y. (2006). The Wealth of Networks: How Social Production
Transforms Markets and Freedom. Yale University Press.

Mayfield, R. (2006, April 27). Power Law of Participation. Ross
Mayfield's Weblog. Retrieved October 29, 2008, from

Joyce, E., & Kraut, R. E. (2006). Predicting Continued Participation
in Newsgroups. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 11(3),

Lakhani, K. R., & von Hippel, E. (2003). How open source software
works: "free" user-to-user assistance. Research Policy, 32(6),


Message: 13
Date: Wed, 4 Nov 2009 15:44:21 +0100
From: "Lisbeth Klastrup" <klastrup at itu.dk>
To: <air-l at listserv.aoir.org>
Cc: klastrup at itu.dk
Subject: [Air-L] Research on "passive" social media use?
Message-ID: <004001ca5d5d$4d2543f0$e76fcbd0$@dk>
Content-Type: text/plain;       charset="iso-8859-1"

Hi all,
A question related to what we do NOT do while spending our time on social
network sites:

I?m currently trying to dig up academic literature documenting in some form
the numbers of active versus passive users of social media, with special
focus on the passive users.? ?Active? here for the sake of argument meant in
a broad sense:? uploading content, commenting, rating; and ?passive? as just
watching or reading, but not interacting with content in any way.? Im
basically interested in all forms of recent academic research on this, which
actually provide some numbers, not just mentionings of ?rule of thumbs? or
second-hand information.
Particularly, I?d love to know if anyone has researched how many people?
?just? read status updates and do NOT comment, retweet, ?Like? them etc on
sites like Facebook or Twitter. (I know it?s a tricky question and perhaps
not very useful to make the distinction, since most are likely to have
commented or ?liked? at some point, but then again I surmise some people are
more likely to do it on a more regularly basis than others, and some are
very rarely active??)

What I have found so far:
A 2008 OfCom report in their UK survey results reports that ?40% looks at
other people?s sites (eg. SNS profiles) without leaving messages?, but does
not deal with ?passivity? otherwise. A Sysomos survey of Twitter users
claims to have found that 21% of people with Twitter-accounts have never
tweeted (so they must be ?passive? readers of other people?s tweets?).

I know of? Jenny Preece?s early work on lurkers, and Jose Van Dijck in her
2009 paper ?Users like you? Theorizing agency in user-generated content?
mentions a Forrester report from 2007 ?Mapping Participation in Activities?
(which you have to pay for), talking of 33% of users being passive
spectators (of videos, blogs etc) and 52% ?inactives?. An OECD 2007 report
?Participative Web: User-Generated content? (according to Dijck) says more
than 80% are passive recipients of content. All in all not much knowledge to
go by, and mostly just numbers. And then there?s the 1/10/89 % meme, but how
substantial is it:

I've perused Danah Boyd?s extensive list on social network research, but at
least judging from the titles of articles listed there & still unknown to
me, ?passive? SNS use hasn?t really been the topic of any papers so far?

Do any of you know of any (other) work in this area? ? I?ll be happy to do a
summary here or in the social media sphere..

Lisbeth Klastrup,
IT University of Copenhagen

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