Collaboration Online: The Example of Distributed Computing

Authors

  • Anne Holohan,

    Corresponding author
    1. Received a Ph. D. in Sociology from University of California, Los Angeles in 2002. She is currently a Marie Curie International Post-Doctoral Fellow in the Department of Sociology and Social Research at the University of Trento, Italy. Her research focuses on inter-organizational cooperation and the role of information and communication technologies in network organizations. Her book, Networks of Democracy: Lessons from Kosovo for Afghanistan, Iraq and Beyond, was published by Stanford University Press in 2005.
    • Address: Department of Sociology, University of Trento, Via Verdi 26, Trento 38100 Italy

      Address: Department of Computer Science and Telecommunications, University of Trento, Via Sommarive 14, Povo 38050 Italy

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  • Anurag Garg

    Corresponding author
    1. Received his Ph. D. in Computer Science from the University of California, Los Angeles in 2003. He is currently a Post-Doctoral Fellow in the Department of Computer Science and Telecommunications at the University of Trento, Italy. His research interests include computer networks, trust management on the Internet, and edge computing.
    • Address: Department of Sociology, University of Trento, Via Verdi 26, Trento 38100 Italy

      Address: Department of Computer Science and Telecommunications, University of Trento, Via Sommarive 14, Povo 38050 Italy

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Abstract

Distributed Computing is a new form of online collaboration; such projects divide a large computational problem into small tasks that are sent out over the Internet to be completed on personal computers. Millions of people all over the world participate voluntarily in such projects, providing computing resources that would otherwise cost millions of dollars. However, Distributed Computing only works if many people participate. The technical challenge is to slice a problem into thousands of tiny pieces that can be solved independently, and then to reassemble the solutions. The social problem is how to find all those widely dispersed computers and persuade their owners to participate. This article examines what makes a collaborative Distributed Computing project successful. We report on data from a quantitative survey and a qualitative study of participants on several online forums, and discuss and analyze Distributed Computing using Arquilla and Ronfeldt's (2001) five-level network organization framework.

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