Remediation and Boundary Work in a Virtual Entrepreneur Community

Jessica Santana


Virtual communities are distinct from traditional communities of practice in that they are global, always on, and void of many of the social attributes that influence social behavior in offline contexts. This fundamentally alters our understanding of networked organizing, entrepreneurial ecosystems, and entrepreneurship as a professional field. This study focuses specifically on how virtual communities invoke newly visible forms of boundary work and social capital following one particularly stigmatizing event: entrepreneurial failure. The study evaluates the role of network structure as a mechanism for rhetorical boundary work in a virtual peer community. Through a statistical analysis of the relationship between a peer’s centrality in the /r/Entrepreneur subReddit network and the sentiment of their response to entrepreneurial failure narratives, I find support for the hypothesis that embeddedness, namely tenure, is directly related to stigmatization of failed members. However, by looking beyond the structure to the content of the tie, my findings suggest that such virtual communities are not closed, but open networks in which inclusive peer boundary work matters more to entrepreneurial persistence than stigmatization. Understanding these dynamics is critical to promoting recovery from the stigma of organizational failure and vitality of a virtual community.

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