Loving the lurkers

13. September 2010 – 10:00 by Centre for E-Government

For the ePart10 in Lausanne, Peter Cruickshank and I wrote about lurkers and their role in e-participation, to be precise, it was about signing an e-petition as a transition from lurking to participation.

Not the sort of lurker we're talking about

Not the sort of lurker we’re talking about

We were thinking about the challenges that lurkers present to us as e-participation researchers, and to the democratic process in general: is being ‘a face in a crowd’ at a political demonstration a bad thing? (no) and is it similar to lurking online? (yes). After all, just spending time at a demonstration or following a political topic is still a commitment. Therefore lurkers are interesting to us in their own right, and should not be negatively portrayed. Lurkers are better than ignorers after all.

We can’t expect everyone to be an activist (the 90-9-1 rule); but if we can understand their motivations to lurk, and what could motivate people to start taking (online/offline) action by the simple act of signing a petition that’s even better, broadening the pool of available activists.

There’s already a huge body or research into the psychology of online participation – all we’ve tried to do here is link them to one specific e-participation technology, and suggest some implications for future research.

You can download the presentation via this link.

Any comments or hints about any research on lurkers& lurking in e-participation is welcome!

Tags: , , ,

  1. 4 Responses to “Loving the lurkers”

  2. By Maren Luebcke on Sep 15, 2010

    I like to think of lurking as “legitimate peripheral participation” introduced by Lave and Wenger in their concept of community of practice. It emphasizes that its ok just to lurk but it implies also a learning process and a shift from passivity to activity, from the periphery to the core.

  3. By Asociacion Ciudades Kyosei / Pedro Prieto-Martin on Sep 15, 2010

    Hi Maren,
    Lurking… “implies also a learning process and a shift from passivity to activity, from the periphery to the core”. Well, it implies it… OR NOT!

    It can also just imply the continuation of the “just passively lurking” behaviors.

    Let’s try to really LOVE lurkers, really as they are, and take advantage of them and their “almost-passive” activities wherever and however they are.
    It seems to me that e-Participation practitioners, even when we try (like in this post), don’t really get to the point of allowing lurkers to be lurkers and really really love them. We always want to win them to the “bright side of the Force”.

    No!! Lurkers are not “better than ignorers after all”. No, lurkers are wonderful, beautiful, useful… exactly as they are.

    The problem lies by us, practitioners, trying to “convert” them, not by lurkers.

    And you know what? Lurkers do not actually care much about what we think about them. And even if they would care… well, they wouldn’t say anything. They are lurkers, after all. ;-p

  4. By Maren Luebcke on Sep 15, 2010

    Hi Pedro,
    Free hugs for lurkers! I like that.
    you are right, lurkers are welcome to stay lurkers. What they do is connecting different spheres and groups, being a lurker in one group and an active member of another.

  5. By Asociacion Ciudades Kyosei / Pedro Prieto-Martin on Sep 15, 2010

    Hi Maren,
    I think we don’t really disagree. :-)

    And I think the connecting function that you just mentioned is very important: lurkers in one group can (well, they can… or could not!! ;-D ) be active members in another group.

    Possibly there are also lurkers that are lurkers everywhere, and are just getting the knowledge in all groups they take part in, knowledge which later they will apply/disseminate in the “meatworld”, out of the Internet. And that is also good enough.

    And finally, there could be “lurking lurkers” that are lurkers everywhere and are just wasting their time, not trying to apply what they learn, spending miserably their miserable lives, without caring for anyone or trying to benefit anybody else… Well, let’s just love them as they are!! :-)

    Another important kind of lurkers are the “occasional” lurkers. Those who are lurkers for a while… activate themselves as active users for another while… deactivate themselves again… etc.
    In that sense… I’d say that we are all lurkers :-), who sometimes deserve a free hug!!

Post a Comment

The PEP-NET Blog uses the gravatar service to display your picture next to comments!