Networking the commons: creative commons project creators funding patterns in crowdfunding

Rong Wang, Li Lu, Janet Fulk

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose: Guided by the collective action theory, signaling theory and social identity approach, this study examines backing behavior by individuals who have created projects under CC licenses. Two motivational mechanisms were examined: (1) identification via common interests in the CC space; (2) resource signaling by other users via their diverse project creation experience, funding or commenting activity. Design/methodology/approach: Data were collected from Exponential random graph modeling was used to examine how the two reviewed mechanisms influence the tie formation probability between Creative Commons (CC) project creators and other creators. The analysis was conducted on two subnetworks: one with ties between CC creators; and one with ties from CC creators to non-CC creators. Findings: The study found that CC creators exhibit distinct backing patterns when considering funding other CC creators compared to non-CC users. When considering funding their peer CC creators, CC identity can help them allocate and support perceived in-group members; when considering funding non-CC creators, shared common interests in competitive project categories potentially triggers a competition mindset and makes them hold back when they see potential rivals. Originality/value: This study makes three contributions. First, it draws from multiple theoretical frameworks to investigate unique motivations when crowdfunders take on dual roles of creators and funders and offered implications on how to manage competition and collaboration simultaneously. Second, with network analysis our study not only identifies multiple motivators at work for collective action, but also demonstrates their differential effects in crowdfunding. Third, the integration of multiple theoretical frameworks allows opportunities for theory building. Peer review: The peer review history for this article is available at:

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)299-315
Number of pages17
JournalOnline Information Review
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 30 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors would like to thank Annenberg School of Communication for the support of this research. They also would like to thank David Nemeschansky for assistance with data collection and coding.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022, Emerald Publishing Limited.


  • Collective action
  • Crowdfunding
  • ERGM
  • Online community
  • Signaling theory
  • Social identity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Information Systems
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Library and Information Sciences


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