Document Type


Date of Award

Spring 5-31-2018

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Information Systems - (Ph.D.)



First Advisor

Quentin Jones

Second Advisor

Michael Bieber

Third Advisor

Starr Roxanne Hiltz

Fourth Advisor

Andrew Klobucar

Fifth Advisor

Brian S. Butler


Despite the importance of individuals coming together for social group-activities (e.g., pick-up volleyball), the process by which such groups coalesce is poorly understood, and as a consequence is poorly supported by technology. This is despite the emergence of Event-Based Social Network (EBSN) technologies that are specifically designed to assist group coalescing for social activities. Existing theories focus on group development in terms of norms and types, rather than the processes involved in initial group coalescence. This dissertation addresses this gap in the literature through four studies focusing on understanding the coalescing process for interest-based group activities within urban environments and a design of a mobile user interface aimed at increasing collective action initiation.

Study One examined how well people's needs for social group activity engagement are being met in the context of an urban university. The analysis of 60 interviews highlighted how participants considered activity leadership a burden, where it took too much time and was difficult to find others. Study Two (a mixed methods study of 763 groups in the NY/NJ/CT Tri-State) and Study Three (A survey of 511 students at an urban university) corroborated results that attendance and participation at the first meeting determined long-term success by giving the organizer belief that their group would be successful.

Study Four involved the design and testing of a mobile group coalescing user-interface (UI) that featured several "lightweight" coalescing features hypothesized to reduce the challenges to organizing. Results from the 2000 participant study indicated that the UI increased the likelihood non-leaders would initiate collective action. The models generated from the study data suggested that a new theory is required to understand the role of critical mass in collective action.

The combination of these investigations into interest-based group activity coalescing uncovered important gaps in the current knowledge of interest-based group activity coalescing and collective action initiation. This work extends our knowledge about how to improve coalescing support and encourage non-leaders to initiate activity coalescing, which will lead to a greater number of activities forming. Finally, this research uncovers the need to redefine collective action and critical mass models to include motivation to organize and its moderators.



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