SPECIAL ISSUE: Media and Empowerment
Individual and collective empowerment in online communities: The mediating role of communicative interaction in web forums
Gregor Petric and Petrovcic
The role of online communities in empowerment has received only limited attention in theory-based empirical research, with the focus predominantly on individual empowerment of people in online support groups. This paper proposes that to analyze the empowering opportunities of online communities, both individual and collective dimensions of empowerment need to be taken into account, considering the suggestions that the relationship between the two can be an opposing one. The empowerment theory developed in community psychology allows the analysis of empowerment outcomes in the realm of online communities on the psychological level; yet, to understand the conditions of congruency between individual and collective empowerment, we introduce the mechanism of communicative interaction. Hypotheses deduced from empowerment theory are contested with the hypotheses of our complementary approach and tested on a convenience sample of online community members. Results indicate that the psycho-social understanding of empowerment processes in the field of community psychology might get new insights by considering a communication perspective for such processes.
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