Wednesday, April 9, 2008

How do online communities organise themselves?

The advances within technology has seen the rise of online virtual communities.

The internet has allowed the breakdown of social and cultural barriers - linking people in an enviornment where geographical location and distance are no constraint in the communication process. Online communities emerge out of user interest rather than by other socio-economic factors in the traditional environment such as: age, income, race etc.

The online world/community allows users to emerse themselves in a variety of different social contexts, allowing them to take with them knowledge and information that would not otherwise be possible.

In the traditional physical sense, society's have a number of norms and social rules that are put in place, which is followed through to guide user behaviour in an online forum.


adaws said...

I believe that online communities are formed as a response to user needs. What some people perceive as the down-falls of offline communities, become the unique advantages of online communities. What is lacking in offline communities is inherent in online communities. You make a couple of good points about the idea that online communities allow the user to participate in an environment that is pretty much free from judgement and discrimination. Do you believe this is a key factor in their popularity? I think the convenience of online communities is also a major contributing factor to why they're so popular. Users can participate when and where they feel like it, and can connect with other users regardless of the time of day or geographical location. And I think one of the most important characteristics of online communities, which perhaps you have understated, is that they allow people with similar, and sometimes rare, interests to network together to share ideas. Online communities really foster the collaboration of people with niche interests that may be overstepped or excluded from the mass market offline communities. I think this is one of the most important parts of online communities and is described by Anderson (2004) as the “Long Tail”.

Anderson, C. (2004). The Long Tail. Wired. Retrieved April 6, 2008, from

Jonesy said...

I think your right in saying that “online communities emerge out of user interest rather than by other socio-economic factors in the traditional environment such as: age, income, race etc.” Online communities provide an intimate and robust environment of networked knowledge systems encouraging personal and professional relationships. Users in these environments can openly interact, share and express information providing a democratic platform for producing and consuming knowledge.

I also agree that the internet has provided a vehicle for the evolution of online communities. However it is not the sole driving force behind them. Online communities have developed as a response to a perceived democratic imbalance in decision making processes within the community. Flew claims, " the reason why online communities and networks are developing is a result of... a decline in opportunities for democratic participation and community formation in contemporary industrial capitalist and mass-mediated societies" (2004, 64). People feel like they are losing their voice.

More and more we are seeing a shift from mainstream consumption of media to a niche networked convergence of user produced content. For example, youtube has given users global reach and is generating a wide spectrum of active audiences. A shift away from the mainstream media draws attention to local and hyperlocal online communities. This shift in media consumption gives content creators cultural power.

Content creation is now spread through online networks giving a wider and more diverse population increased power within the democratic formation of community ideals.


Flew, T. 2005. Virtual Cultures in New media : an introduction. 61-82. Melbourne: OUP.