Virtual communities

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ANGELA BELLO PENA 1935569 Dr. George Welling Computer Communication LCX009P05 10 CTS 31.01.2010 1910 words 0


The Internet culture is very extensive and covers many aspects of life in today's society. According to Castells, there are four layer structures that characterize this Internet culture: the techno-meritocratic culture,the hacker culture, the virtual communitarian culture and the entrepreneurial culture 1 . In this paper we are going to focus on the virtual communitarian culture. The concept of community is something inherent in the society since its early days. It is a phenomenon that develops over time and adapts to the changes. On the one hand it reflects the type of society in which this community developsitself. The development of technology and the advancement of Internet have been favorable factors for the emergence of virtual communities and for its continued development. On the other hand by community we mean a group of people who share common objects such as ideas, properties, identities… and all these occur in a common space. Usually we create a common identity through differentiation fromother groups2. If we want a community to be solid and enduring over time, it is necessary to have a strong sense of belonging and have common

characteristics. Castells said that communities work on the basis of two cultural features. The first is the value of horizontal and free communication; the practice of virtual community epitomizes the practice of global free speech. The second is thecapacity for anyone to find his or her own destination on the Net, and if not found, to create and post his or her own information The term “virtual” refers to “something” that has the appearance of existing but it is not real and has the virtue to produce an effect, although this effect is not necessary produced at the present moment. The term has its origins in the Middle Ages where this adjectiverefer to the divine power which means it has the virtue of being real but cannot be observed in the material world 3. If we apply

1 2

Castells, M. The Internet Galaxy. Reflections on the internet, business and society.(p.37) Wikipedia. La enciclopedia libre. ( ) 3 DRAE (Dictionary of the Spanish Royal Academy). Encyclopedic dictionary. Edition n o 22.


this tothe actual world we can see that something virtual is a simulation of reality. Rheingold (who popularized the term) said that “virtual communities are social aggregations that emerge form the Net when enough people carry on those public discussions long enough, with sufficient human feeling, to form webs of personal relationships in cyberspace”4. His explanation about the formation of virtualcommunities is based on mankind’s innate need to fill the void left by present societies. Although theorists have not reached agreement on a final definition of virtual community, Rheingold and Foster have pointed out some universal characteristics of these communities, for example: is a hyper real object pretends to be a real community but is lacks some features of this; a virtual community iscomposed of netizens who identify in a shared context where they share values, norms and they have developed a sense of belonging and all contact is through CMC (computer mediated communication)5. Therefore we can conclude that virtual communities are groups of people who share ideas, discuss information; put an announcement, etc ... as similarly as the way they do in real-life communities..

4 5Rheingold. The Virtual Community: finding connection in a computerized world. Chapter one (p.5) Rheingold. The Virtual Community: finding connection in a computerized world. Chapter one (p.8)



To contextualize virtual communities historically we must take into account the factors that facilitated its birth and subsequent development. Although the most important and...
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