Lave and Wenger's theory of legitimate peripheral participation suggests that newcomers become experts in a community by starting at the periphery and working their way towards the center through observation, collaboration, and apprenticeship. This process involves both learning the practical skills required for membership in the community and acquiring the social norms and values that guide behavior within it. As newcomers become more competent, they are granted more responsibility and authority within the community.
The authors Armstrong and Hagel build upon this theory by applying it to online communities, suggesting that virtual spaces provide an ideal environment for legitimate peripheral participation. The low barriers to entry and the ability to observe and participate in discussions allow newcomers to quickly gain knowledge and confidence, while the anonymity of the online space allows for experimentation and exploration without fear of judgment. Additionally, online communities can provide access to diverse perspectives and expertise that may not be available in a physical community.
In the context of an online community, the principles of legitimate peripheral participation suggest that newcomers can become valuable members by starting on the periphery, observing and participating in discussions, and gradually becoming more involved in the community. Online communities provide a low-risk environment for learning and experimentation, and can offer access to diverse perspectives and expertise. By following these principles, newcomers can gain the knowledge and skills necessary to become proficient members of the community.