Sustained participation in open source: A psychological contract approach

Cañibano, Almudena
Curto-Millet, Daniel
Rojahn, Lukas
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We propose the use of the psychological contract as an alternative theoretical lens to study sustained participation and engagement in open source, which is often used as an example of new forms of digitized independent work. Psychological contracts are the set of beliefs held by individuals of their personal exchange with an organization and other actors with which they work. While previous literature has tended to study inducements (e.g., intrinsic or extrinsic motivation) on its own, the psychological contract studies the relation between an individual’s expected inducements and contributions. If these expectations are unmet, a breach can take place that will affect contributor engagement. We suggest the usefulness of this theory in understanding why and how open source participants decide to stop or reduce their involvement. Participants hold multiple psychological contracts with the project, fellow developers, and users. The findings show that breach can be experienced with all of them either due to unmet contributions or inducements. We suggest further research into such breaches is required to understand their consequences on the sustainability of open source projects.
Social and Psychological Perspectives in Collaboration Research, breach, contributions, inducements, open source, psychological contract, sustained participation
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