Deakin University

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Proposing the core contributor withdrawal theory (CCWT) to understand core contributor withdrawal from online peer-production communities

journal contribution
posted on 2018-01-01, 00:00 authored by Ling Jiang, Kristijan MirkovskiKristijan Mirkovski, Jeffrey D Wall, Christian Wagner, Paul Benjamin Lowry
Purpose – Drawing on sensemaking and emotion regulation research, the purpose of this paper is to
reconceptualize core contributor withdrawal (CCW) in the context of online peer-production communities (OPPCs).
To explain the underlying mechanisms that make core contributors withdraw from these communities, the authors
propose a process theory of contributor withdrawal called the core contributor withdrawal theory (CCWT).
Design/methodology/approach – To support CCWT, a typology of unmet expectations of online
communities is presented, which uncovers the cognitive and emotional processing involved. To illustrate the
efficacy of CCWT, a case study of the English version of Wikipedia is provided as a representative OPPC.
Findings – CCWT identifies sensemaking and emotion regulation concerning contributors’ unmet
expectations as causes of CCW from OPPCs, which first lead to declined expectations, burnout and
psychological withdrawal and thereby to behavioral withdrawal.
Research limitations/implications – CCWT clearly identifies how and why important participation
transitions, such as from core contributor to less active contributor or non-contributor, take place. By
adopting process theories, CCWT provides a nuanced explanation of the cognitive and affective events that
take place before core contributors withdraw from OPPCs.
Practical implications – CCWT highlights the challenge of online communities shifting from recruiting new
contributors to preventing loss of existing contributors in the maturity stage. Additionally, by identifying the
underlying cognitive and affective processes that core contributors experience in response to unexpected events,
communities can develop safeguards to prevent or correct cognitions and emotions that lead to withdrawal.
Originality/value – CCWT provides a theoretical framework that accounts for the negative cognitions and
affects that lead to core contributors’ withdrawal from online communities. It furthers the understanding of
what motivates contributing to and what leads to withdrawal from OPPC.



Internet research






988 - 1028




Bingley, Eng.





Publication classification

C Journal article; C1 Refereed article in a scholarly journal

Copyright notice

2018, Emerald Publishing Ltd.