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Introduction[ edit ] The traditional definition of a community is of geographically circumscribed entity neighborhoods, villages, etc. Virtual communities are usually dispersed geographically, and therefore are not communities under the original definition. Some online communities are linked geographically, and are known as community websites. However, if one considers communities to simply possess boundaries of some sort between their members and non-members, then a virtual community is certainly a community.

In the seventeenth century, scholars associated with the Royal Society of London formed a community through the exchange of letters. For example, an email distribution list operates on an informational level. Internet-based[ edit ] The explosive diffusion of the Internet since the mids fostered the proliferation of virtual communities in the form of social networking services and online communities.

Virtual communities may synthesize Web 2. Online communities depend upon social interaction and exchange between users online. This interaction emphasizes the reciprocity element of the unwritten social contract between community members. However, studies regarding the health effects of these communities did not show any negative effects. There was a high drop-out rate of participants in the study. The health-related effects are not clear because of the lack of thoroughness and the variation in studies done on the subject.

These forms of social networks allow for open conversation between individuals who are going through similar experiences, whether themselves or in their family.

These sites prove especially useful when related to rare medical conditions. People with rare or debilitating disorders may not be able to access support groups in their physical community, thus online communities act as primary means for such support.

It[ clarification needed ] can serve as an outlet of support by connecting with others who truly understand the disease, as well as more practical support, such as receiving help adjusting to life with the disease. Studies on health networks have mostly been conducted on groups which typically suffer the most from extreme forms of diseases, for example cancer patients, HIV patients, or patients with other life-threatening diseases.

It is general knowledge that one participates in online communities to interact with society and develop relationships. Thus, they have turned to the internet. A study conducted by Haven B. Battles and Lori S. Some studies have indicated that virtual communities can provide valuable benefits to their users. Online communities focused in health were shown to offer a unique form of emotional support that differed from event-based realities and informational support networks.

There is a growing amount of material being presented about how online communities affect the health of their users. It appears that the creation of communities have a positive impact on those who are ill or in need of medical information. Networking sites act as a medium for expression and discourse about issues in specific user communities. Online content-sharing sites have made it easy for youth as well as others to not only express themselves and their ideas through digital media, but also connect with large networked communities.

Within these spaces, young people are pushing the boundaries of traditional forms of engagement such as voting and joining political organizations and creating their own ways to discuss, connect, and act in their communities.

Some 84 percent of online volunteers found that their online volunteering experience had contributed to their personal development and learning. Previous concerns about the effects of Internet use on community and family fell into two categories: Benkler continues to suggest that the nature of an individual changes over time, based on social practices and expectations.

There is a shift from individuals who depend on social relations that are locally embedded, unmediated and stable relationships to networked individuals who are more dependent on their own combination of strong and weak ties across boundaries and weave their own fluid relationships.

Users may choose which thread, or board of discussion, they would like to read or contribute to. A user will start a discussion by making a post. Unlike in spoken conversations , message boards do not usually have instantaneous responses; users actively go to the website to check for responses. Anyone can register to participate in an online message board. People can choose to participate in the virtual community, even if or when they choose not to contribute their thoughts and ideas.

Unlike chat rooms, at least in practice, message boards can accommodate an almost infinite number of users. Studies have shown that people are more likely to intervene when they are the only one in a situation. With Internet message boards, users at their computers are alone, which might contribute to their willingness to reach out.

Another possible explanation is that people can withdraw from a situation much more easily online than off. They can simply click exit or log off, whereas they would have to find a physical exit and deal with the repercussions of trying to leave a situation in real life. The lack of status that is presented with an online identity also might encourage people, because, if one chooses to keep it private, there is no associated label of gender, age, ethnicity or lifestyle.

Shown are two IRC channels and a private conversation. This section possibly contains original research.

Please improve it by verifying the claims made and adding inline citations. Statements consisting only of original research should be removed. January Learn how and when to remove this template message Shortly after the rise of interest in message boards and forums, people started to want a way of communicating with their "communities" in real time.

The downside to message boards was that people would have to wait until another user replied to their posting, which, with people all around the world in different time frames, could take a while.

The development of online chat rooms allowed people to talk to whoever was online at the same time they were. This way, messages were sent and online users could immediately respond.

The original development by CompuServe CB hosted forty channels in which users could talk to one another in real time. The idea of forty different channels led to the idea of chat rooms that were specific to different topics. Users could choose to join an already existent chat room they found interesting, or start a new "room" if they found nothing to their liking.

Real-time chatting was also brought into virtual games, where people could play against one another and also talk to one another through text. Now, chat rooms can be found on all sorts of topics, so that people can talk with others who share similar interests.

Chat room users communicate through text-based messaging. Most chat room providers are similar and include an input box, a message window, and a participant list. The input box is where users can type their text-based message to be sent to the providing server.

The server will then transmit the message to the computers of anyone in the chat room so that it can be displayed in the message window. The message window allows the conversation to be tracked and usually places a time stamp once the message is posted.

There is usually a list of the users who are currently in the room, so that people can see who is in their virtual community. Users can communicate as if they are speaking to one another in real life.

This "like reality" attribute makes it easy for users to form a virtual community, because chat rooms allow users to get to know one another as if they were meeting in real life. The individual "room" feature also makes it more likely that the people within a chat room share a similar interest; an interest that allows them to bond with one another and be willing to form a friendship.

In this type of virtual community, people are connected by living as an avatar in a computer-based world. It is similar to a computer game, however there is no objective for the players. A virtual world simply gives users the opportunity to build and operate a fantasy life in the virtual realm. Characters within the world can talk to one another and have almost the same interactions people would have in reality.

For example, characters can socialize with one another and hold intimate relationships online. This type of virtual community allows for people to not only hold conversations with others in real time, but also to engage and interact with others.

The avatars that users create are like humans. Users can choose to make avatars like themselves, or take on an entirely different personality than them. When characters interact with other characters, they can get to know one another not only through text based talking, but also by virtual experience such as having avatars go on a date in the virtual world. A chat room form of a virtual community may give real time conversations, but people can only talk to one another.

In a virtual world, characters can do activities together, just like friends could do in reality. Communities in virtual worlds are most similar to real life communities because the characters are physically in the same place, even if the users who are operating the characters are not.

It is close to reality, except that the characters are digital. Whyville offers a good alternative for younger audiences where safety and privacy are a concern. In Whyville you use the simulation aspect of the virtual world to experiment and learn about various phenomenon. Another use for virtual worlds has been in business communications. Benefits from virtual world technology such as photo realistic avatars and positional sound create an atmosphere for participants that provides a less fatiguing sense of presence.

Enterprise controls that allow the meeting host to dictate the permissions of the attendees such as who can speak, or who can move about allow the host to control the meeting environment. Several companies are creating business based virtual worlds including Second Life. These business based worlds have stricter controls and allow functionality such as muting individual participants, desktop sharing, or access lists to provide a highly interactive and controlled virtual world to a specific business or group.

Business based virtual worlds also may provide various enterprise features such as Single Sign on with third party providers, or Content Encryption. Social network services[ edit ] Facebook on the Ad-tech Social networking services are the most prominent type of virtual community. They are either a website or software platform that focuses on creating and maintaining relationships. Facebook, Twitter, and Myspace are all virtual communities.

With these sites, one often creates a profile or account, and adds friends or follow friends. This allows people to connect and look for support using the social networking service as a gathering place. Specialized information communities[ edit ] Participatory culture plays a large role in online and virtual communities.

In participatory culture, users feel that their contributions are important and that by contributing, they are forming meaningful connections with other users. The differences between being a producer of content on the website and being a consumer on the website become blurred and overlap. According to Henry Jenkins , "Members believe their contributions matter and feel some degree of social connection with one another " Jenkins, et al. The exchange and consumption of information requires a degree of "digital literacy," such that users are able to "archive, annotate, appropriate, transform and recirculate media content" Jenkins.

Specialized information communities centralizes a specific group of users who are all interested in the same topic. The users contribute consumer information relating to their hobby and additionally participate in further specialized groups and forums.


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