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Online social communities. The interaction between online and offline communities. Fernando Garcia. Presentation outline. The Internet as a communication medium Reasons for going online Online communities Definition Purpose Progression from online to offline

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online social communities

Online social communities

The interaction between online and offline communities

Fernando Garcia

presentation outline
Presentation outline
  • The Internet as a communication medium
    • Reasons for going online
    • Online communities
      • Definition
      • Purpose
  • Progression from online to offline
    • Reasons for then going offline
    • Examples of how online communities interact with “real life”
the internet as a communication medium
The Internet as a communication medium
  • Not a “separate world”
    • Online world doesn’t replace offline world
  • What is the Internet being used for?1
    • Email
    • Reading news
    • Shopping
    • Information about hobbies
    • Online banking
    • Instant messaging
    • Posting original content (pics, blogs, web sites)
the internet as a communication medium4
The Internet as a communication medium
  • A tool…
    • “Sociologists have long known that technology by itself does not determine anything. Rather, people take technology and use it (or discard it) in ways that its developers never dreamed.” 2
  • …for communication
    • Some communications methods heavily replaced (snail mail), but mostly supplemental5
the internet as a communication medium5
The Internet as a communication medium
  • Email and telephone use in important matters2
    • Non-email users: 36 phone calls, 83 in-person meetings
    • Email users: 41 emails, 58 phone calls, 84 in-person meetings
  • Face-to-face time has not changed
    • Despite popularity of email, 40% of internet users increase/greatly increase contact with family/friends (5.1%, decrease) 1
  • In other words, the Internet is used to increase and supplement communication, rather than replace older methods
    • Social/communal isolation not normally an issue
    • Games
      • MUDs, Online games (WoW, Half-Life, etc.)
online communities
Online communities
  • Definition of “community” in reference to existing online debated10,11
    • Calhoun (1991)
      • “’Indirect social relationships’ in which connectivity with others is more imagined, or parasocial, than ‘real.’”
    • Oldenburg (1989)
      • “Online communities may fill a need that has been all but abandoned in modern societies“
    • Rheingold (1993)
      • “Intense feelings of camaraderie, empathy and support… observed among people in the online spaces [that were] studied”
    • Maloney-Krichmar, Preece (2005)
      • “The people who come together for a particular purpose, and who are guided by policies (including norms and rules) and supported by software “
    • Bruckman (2005)
      • “[Note] the similarities and differences of each new member and [compare] them with the characteristics of members who are regarded as being within the community”
online communities7
Online communities
  • So then what’s this presentation about?
    • Common theme: common themes
      • Communities tend to share a common trait/interest
      • Persistent and constant conversation on some topic between members (multiple topics happening simultaneously)
      • Usually initially gathered for a single purpose
      • Provides purpose for going online
    • Socialization
      • Communities have several or many participants
      • Communities have many discussions
online communities8
Online communities
  • Why do communities form online?12
    • Achieve goals
      • Practical, explicit (information gathering)
        • “How to replace timing belt on 2.2L 93 Honda Prelude?”
        • “My GF just dumped me; how do I deal with it?”
        • “Anyone in UCSB want to play racquetball at Rec Cen?”
      • Benefits inherent to community structure
        • Social support
        • Friendship
        • Sense of belonging (common theme)
        • Recreation (like TV, but two-way)
online communities9
Online communities
  • Why do communities form online?(con’t)
    • Easy way of fulfilling needs unmet by other methods
      • Provide a centralized space for similar people to congregate
      • Provide an easily-accessible space for similar people to congregate
      • Meet new individuals
      • Discover new interests
      • Escape from reality
    • Enable us to enhance aspects of known offline communities
      • Keep in touch with distant friends/relatives
      • Share thoughts, pictures, music, notes, etc., easily
online communities10
Online communities
  • Examples of currently existing online communities
    • Special-interest bulletin boards…
      • Politics
      • Sports
      • Nutrition
      • Dating…
    • Multi-purpose boards/sections
      • Most special-interest bulletin boards maintain “Off-topic” section
      • IRC
    • Socialization/information sharing/”blogs”
      • WELL
online communities11
Online communities
  • Common trends among online communities3
    • Collection of people with similar interests
      • Centralized creation and participation (such as message boards, email lists)
      • Individually created and maintained (blogs, Myspace)
    • Reduced inhibitions concerning expression
      • Anonymity appears to provide protection
        • Shy people become more outspoken online
        • Discussions generally considered taboo can take place due to shared interest and lack of public retribution
      • Strength in numbers
    • Trust/comprehension issues
      • New members
        • Sometimes have no formal introduction
        • Arrive unannounced, on their own
online communities12
Online communities
  • Trust/comprehension issues (con’t)
    • Text does not provide tone, expression, or body language
    • Lack of context may lead to misunderstandings
      • You can be very aggressive.
      • IMHO you can be very aggressive LOL! :-P
  • Time between messages longer than conversation
    • Information always there (persistent)
    • (Usually) constant flow of information
online communities13
Online communities
  • When to continue offline?
    • Meeting one’s needs/goals offline
      • Political activists may stage rallies/demonstrations
      • Lonely individuals may meet up with people to pursue/maintain a friendship/romance
      • Sports enthusiasts organize trips to/meetings at games
    • Done if practical/worthwhile/beneficial
      • Traveling 10 miles to play soccer with a friend
      • Traveling 100 miles to engage in a group meeting
      • Traveling 1000 miles to have coffee with a future spouse
  • Whole Earth ‘Lectronic Link8,9
    • One of the first popular virtual communities
    • Socialization
      • “In the traditional community, we search through our pool of neighbors and professional colleagues, of acquaintances and acquaintances of acquaintances, in order to find people who share our values and interests… In a virtual community we can go directly to the place where our favorite subjects are being discussed...”9
    • Instant access to information, people
      • Medical advice at 11PM: faster to go online than calling pediatrician
    • Parenting conference
      • Section strictly dedicated to parenting
      • Face-to-face meeting
        • Picnic, softball… “It was a normal American community picnic”
        • Became annual event
  • “Wired Suburb4” of 109 homes
    • 64 homes had broadband Internet access
    • 45 homes went without any Internet access
    • NET-L neighborhood mailing list
  • Love (or at least know) thy neighbor
    • Wired residents recognized 3x, talked with and visited 2x more neighbors than non-wired
    • Wired residents regularly talked with 6 neighbors, non-wired with 3
    • Internet access helps to start relationships
  • Housing developer protest
    • Dissatisfaction with homes, roads, plumbing, etc.
    • Neighborhood-level organization rapid and efficient
    • 50% participation vs. 20% using conventional organization
    • Information “leaks” from those uninvolved in protest
pro immigration rallies
Pro-Immigration Rallies
  • Organization… how was it done?
    • Television, radio programs key to propogating message
      • Target audience more likely to watch television and listen to radio
    • The internet also spread message
      • Was the first time some heard of the marches
      • Growing sense of support and union pushed some to join
      • Provided a forum for response and inspiration
        • Not possible with television, limited public radio participation
      • Practical, particular details worked out
        • Where to meet? Park? Eat? What to chant?
pro immigration rallies17
Pro-Immigration Rallies
  • Organization (con’t)
    • Increased communication made possible online
      • “Wear white”
      • “Don’t take Mexican flags”
      • “Don’t do anything stupid, pendejos ”
    • Discussion
      • “Should we really not go to school?”
      • “What message does it really send if we skip out of work?”
    • Speed of organization greatly increased6
      • Persistence of messages/information better than television
      • Constant propogation across thousands of websites, email lists, forums, etc.
      • Discussion and size of community motivated others to join
pro immigration rallies18
Pro-Immigration Rallies
  • Informal, short-but-sweet survey
    • 5 individuals; average computer users
    • All heard about marches online; 4 of them first heard online (1 TV)
    • Common answer to effects of online communication: motivation
      • Increased amounts of information increased desire to participate
      • Researching issues, comments online
    • Most knew people who’d sent messages
      • “You only see their [messages] if they’re your friends.”
      • Worked out details of how to participate
      • Those who didn’t organized with known friends (offline)
    • All wary of strangers online
      • Little trust of unknown individuals who’d sent messages
      • Little trust of unknown individuals in general
      • “Must get to know them in person” to trust them
  • Online world supplements offline world
    • The most social people make online communities thrive7
  • Increase communication links to others
    • Can provide specific, directed channels to interest groups
  • Online communities a microcosm of real life
  • World Internet Project. The Digital Future Report (Year Five): USA. http://www.worldinternetproject.net8 May 2006
  • Wellman, B. Connecting Community: On- and Offline Univ. of Toronto March 2006
  • Maloney-Krichmar, D.; Preece, J. Online Communities: Focusing on Sociability and Usability (draft copy). Social Computing Research 10 March 2006
  • Hampton, K.; Wellman, B. Neighboring in Netville: How the Internet Supports Community and Social Capital in a Wired Suburb City and Community 2(4). 277-311 2003.
  • Jones, S. The Internet Goes to College: How students are living in the future with today’s technology Pew Internet and American Life Project 8 May 2006
  • Harrison, C.; Solis, D. Teens Answer the Call—and E-mail Government Innovators Network, Harvard University 8 May 2006
  • Chan, A. Social Interaction Design Case Study: MySpace Gravity7 8 May 2006
  • Salon Media Group. WELL 9 May 2006
  • Rheingold, H. The Virtual Community: Homesteading on the Electronic Frontier May 2006
  • Maloney-Krichmar, D.; Preece, J. Online Communities: Design, Theory, and Practice Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 10(4). 2005
  • Thomsen, S.; Straubharr, J.; Bolyard, D. Ethnomethodology and the study of online communities: exploring the cyber streets Information Research 4(1). 1998
  • Gefen, D.; Ridings, C. Virtual Community Attraction: Why People Hang Out Online JCMC 10(1). Article 4, November 2004