Online Communities

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The term online community means different things to different people. The imprecise term lacks a defined meaning even amongst sociologists although there is consensus that it involves a group of people sharing a common interest. In the physical context, Hillery argues that every community has social interaction, a shared space or location and common obligations and responsibilities.


He argues that virtual communities are social aggregations that emerge from the Internet when enough people carry on a discussion long enough to form personal relationships. This view remains recognizable in what Preece calls the e-commerce perspective of online communities. The early arguments for regarding virtual communities as a marketing tool took a Spartan view of what constitutes a community. Hagel and Armstrong contend that the community integrates content and communication in a computer mediated space. They put an emphasis on member-generated content; a perspective that may have influenced views that 'any chat or bulletin board' is regarded as a community by businesses. The development of an economic perspective to online communities may be frowned upon by some, but there has been a surge of interest from businesses eager to gain advantage from building relationships with customers. The range of business communities now seen on the Web further complicates the definition of an online community. If it is more than a bulletin board, then the boundaries of the shared space and the nature of the interaction have to be identified. In an example of an embedded business community, Preece examines has a link from its homepage to its community page. ...
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