Online information-sharing: a qualitative analysis of community, trust and social influence amongst commuter cyclists in the UK
Bartle, C. , Avineri, E. and Chatterjee, K. (2012) Online information-sharing: a qualitative analysis of community, trust and social influence amongst commuter cyclists in the UK. To be published in Transportation Research Part F: Traffic Psychology and Behaviour. ISSN 1369-8478 [In Press]
Publisher's URL: http://www.journals.elsevier.com/transportation-re...
Research into the use and behavioural effects of travel information has concentrated on top-down information from transport providers, but little is known about the role of informal information, shared through word-of-mouth, in everyday travel behaviour. Social interactions about travel may exert not only an informational influence, whereby beliefs are updated based on the experience of other individuals, but also a more subtle normative influence: conveying information about norms of behaviour within a particular social milieu. This research aimed to explore, using a qualitative approach, the social processes which occurred when a group of 23 commuter cyclists interacted with one another through a specially designed, map-based website over six weeks, sharing their routes and other cycling-related information. Methods comprised observation of website interactions, participant questionnaires and semi-structured interviews; the analysis drew on the theory of normative and informational social influence, and self-categorisation theory. It was found that the process of sharing information could perform not only a functional role in diffusing instrumental travel information, but also a social one whereby perceived in-group membership and high levels of trust reinforced positive views of cycling as a commuter mode. Both roles were found to offer particular encouragement to those who were new to cycling or new to a particular workplace. This suggests that ‘user-generated’ information may hold potential as one of the tools for promoting sustainable travel within a group setting such as the workplace.
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