“Community” – has long been defined as a
group of interacting people living in a common
However as technology evolves, the way we perceive
our communities change, they are no longer reliant
of a similar location and can be redefined as:
A network of people who have something in
common and interact on a regular basis in a
holistic way, offering a sense of belonging and
togetherness between differing groups of people.
So at what point in history did our communities evolve
from this classic neighbourhood setting to…
..the ever increasing world of virtual and imagined
At the birth of:
COMPUTER MEDIATED COMMUNICATIONS
The communication process that occurs through the use of
two or more networked computers:
Social Networking Websites
Virtual World Websites
The creation of CMC technology and social networking
websites has lead social researchers and academics to ask
themselves the question:
Can communities form online?
Social researcher Benedict Anderson
coined the term ‘Imagined Community’ –
“All communities larger than primordial
villages of face-to-face contact are
imagined” (1983, pp. 18)
This question is determined by what people
perceive as the correct definition of community,
do people have to have physical face-to-face
interaction to be deemed part of a community?
Author Howard Rheingold (1994), describes virtual
communities as “cultural aggregations that emerge
when enough people bump into each other often
enough in cyberspaces”.
How is this image of a community really that
different to an image of a online community?
Online community members
partake in regular social and
daily tasks that they would
perform in their everyday lives,
whilst visiting their online world.
They perform jobs, shop, clean their
(virtual) houses, visit friends, go out for
coffee, and many other daily activities
usually performed during their real lives..
Virtual Community users even go to church ONLINE!
Personal Learning sites such as ‘Delicious’ rank Second Life as the most used
Virtual Community on the Internet as it has the highest number of attributed
tags. Facebook is ranked as the most commonly used Social Networking Site.
•Launched June 30, 2003
•Community of Residents, interact with each other
through the use of AVATARS
•Linden dollar (L$) can be used to buy, sell, rent or
trade land or goods and services with other users
A key factor in Second Life’s popularity is the
use of Avatars
“The only limit is your imagination”
- Avatars display patrons personalities in the online
- They give users an opportunity to create and
disguise themselves as anyone or thing that they
have ever dreamt of becoming.
- Second Life even lets you recreate your identity in
the body of any animal existing or nonexistent.
Through the use of avatars Second Life users are able to act
out their daily life online and experience both the good
and bad sides of social life.
“We chat, argue, engage in intellectual
intercourse, perform acts of commerce,
exchange knowledge, share emotional support,
make plans, brainstorm, gossip, feud, fall in
love, find friends, lose them, create a little high
art and a lot of idle talk” (Rheingold, 1994).
Positive factors for virtual second life communities
Events in Cyberspace can have
concrete effects in real life, of both
the pleasant and less pleasant
“Participating in a virtual community
has not solved life's problems for me,
but served as an AID, a COMFORT, and
an INSPIRATION at times.”
I participate in “wide-ranging, intellectually
stimulating, professionally rewarding, sometimes
painful, and often intensely emotional ongoing
interchange with dozens of new friends, hundreds of
colleagues, thousands of acquaintances”
All whilst sitting, physically isolated in my room.
If all these raw feelings and emotions can be produced
whilst sitting alone in an isolated room, and a sense of up
most community is met then who is really able to say that
virtual communities do not exist?
- They exist in the eye of the beholder -
If you believe a community can develop outside of physical
boundaries then you believe that virtual communities are
really and operating over thousands of websites on the
internet, involving millions of people from all over the
Overall the truth is, that technology is
forever changing and wont slow down for
The word ‘COMMUNITY’ truly means somewhere
that individuals feel same and a sense of belonging,
the feeling that they are connecting with those
around them and can open up to them about the
triumphs and loses in their lives.
Abdul- Rahman, A. & Hailes, S. (2000) Supporting Trust in Virtual Communities,
Proceedings of the 33rd Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences, 2000
Feenberg, A. & Bakardjieva, M. (2004) Virtual Community: No ‘Killer Implication’, New
Media & Society, 6, 1, pp. 37-43. Viewed 4 October 2010,
Fox, N. & Roberts, C. (1999) GP’s in Cyberspace: the Sociology of a ‘Virtual Community’,
Blackwell Publishers, Oxford, UK
Fox, S. (2004) The New Imagined Community: Identifying and Exploring a Bidirectional
Continuum Integrating Virtual and Physical Communities through the Community
Embodiment Model (CEM), Journal of Communication Inquiry, 28, 1, pp. 47-62
Norton, B. (2001) Non-Participation, Imagined Communities and the Language Classroom,
Chapter 8 in, Learner Contributions to Language Learning, viewed on 3 October 2010
Rheingold, H. (1994) A Slice of Life in My Virtual Community, in H. Rheingold (Ed.), Global
Networks: Computers and International Communication, pp. 57-80, MIT Press, Cambridge,