Sunday, August 9, 2009

Online Community


Let me get back to the definition of community .Traditionally a "community" has been defined as a group of interacting people living in a common location. The word is often used to refer to a group that is organized around common values and social cohesion within a shared geographical location, generally in social units larger than a household1.
Since the advent of the Internet, the concept of community no longer has geographical limitations, as people can now virtually gather in an online community and share common interests regardless of physical location or geographical location.
Thus looking at the definition of a online community, virtual community or e-community is a group of people that primarily interact via communication media such as newsletters, telephone, email, internet social network service or instant messages rather than face to face, for social, professional, educational or other purposes2. If the mechanism is a computer network, it is called an online community. Virtual and online communities have also become a supplemental form of communication between people who know each other primarily in real life. Many means are used in social software separately or in combination, including text-based chatrooms and forums that use voice, video text or avatars.

A very good video by Dr. Michael Wesch will further enhance our understanding about Online Community the title of the presentation is “An anthropological introduction to YouTube”.
With regards to the presentation Dr. Michael Wesch from Kansas State University did for the Library of Congress on June 23rd 2008. It's an interesting anthropological analysis on the effect YouTube and social media is having on the way we connect, communicate and recognize ourselves today. To understand more on what his presentation is, I got think back and search for the meaning of anthropology. According to wikipedia “Anthropology” is the study of human beings, everywhere and throughout time.
“An anthropological introduction to YouTube” is where “traditional” academic research and the new media landscape intersect. It is the anthropological perspective and study of our generation’s fascination with YouTube2
He presented a New form of community with the Interesting phenomenon, a video clip of an ‘ordinary’ user is shared and evolves and revolves around the world. It evolves because other viewers remake it remixed it as Dr. Michael terms it - unpack the impact. Revolves because it passes from one user to another and before the original user know it he is suddenly a global phenomenon…by allowing people to communicate all over the world it creates a celebration of new type of community. Thus he suggest that we have to rethink a few things. I am moved by what he said about Anthropology of Youtube integrated media scape. Media is not a content. Media is not a tool of communication. Media mediate human relationship. When media change human then relationship change..thus rethink all of this things including ourselves.
With the question of Why YouTube ? The answer: YouTubes lost of community. You tube as a medium of community don’t have a particular audience which means a context collapse. User don’t know whom they are talking to…New forms is immerging place to place to Person to person.
Yet there is what we call cultural inversion which consist of two major parts:
1. Express: individualism, independence, commercialization
2. Value: community, relationships, authenticity
You tube come on with this.
Anonymity + Physical distance+ rare& ephemeral dialogue= hatred as public performance but it is also equal to freedom to experience humanity without fear or anxiety. You tube offers this possibility.
Media not distance connect us in different ways that can sometimes feels different but sometimes that distance allows us to connect more deeply then ever before and new forms of community create new forms of self-understanding.
1 - Wikipedia 2 - CC BY-NC-SA.

Another interesting talk about online community is from the video Groups and Networks of Stephen Downes 2006.

Stephen Downes tried to identify where online Learning belongs whether to Group or Networks. Most online learner enthusiast classifies it as group but he believes that it is a network. To further explain his points he draws a line between group and Network by characterizing them.

Groups have four major elements and they are as follows:
Closed… boundary between member or non members
Distributive… with leader or starter

While Networks four major elements are:
Based on the principle of diversity
Coordinated by autonomous
Openness contributing is open rather than close...It is bound to connects bridges
Connective- nature of information flow is connective

Thus to tie up his presentation to on-line learning….he regarded online learning as a network which is based in principle of diversity…Learning is done through asynchronous way as opposed to synchronous learning.
As for me to make it simple, online community is a group of people with common interest, unity develop with that interest, through the use of ICT tools.

Pictures form and,,


  1. I think this whole issue of community & network is fascinating. The idea of asynchronous and synchronous in relation to community & network is one I haven't really thought about before. But now I do think about it, it does make sense.

    Just consider my Twitter account. I use it to spread info & receive - it's a network. But the minute I start to receive personal tweets & start to interact in a more personal & synchronous way with a number of people, the more I feel like I belong to a community.

    Do you have any examples of online communities you are a member of?

  2. Rosceli
    I also found Wesch's critique of the culture of YouTube quite compelling. The idea of the collapse of context leaving a You Tube member both highly vulnerable and liberated- the twin tensions of behaving- is one I have given more thought and have begun to look at reallife situations where vulnerability and liberation co-exist and in what balance. I can see that some groups I belong to would encourage one more than the other. Maybe that's why I need a mix of groups to be part of.
    Look forward to further discussion around these topics.

  3. Hi Rosceli,

    Very interesting post :)
    I agree with your comment "online community is a group of people with common interest, unity develop with that interest, through the use of ICT tools." it is true that an online community is only successful if there is a common interest for the members.

    Regarding youtube, what do you think about the dishonest and false information being published online? Should we be prepared for such things when we are participating in an online community.