The Extra Cool Group! (of people Michael is experimenting on) discussion

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message 1: by Michael, Sonic the Hegemon (new)

Michael | 183 comments Mod
So, I still haven't taken a class where I can use all of our discussions of goodreads reviews as a genre. BUT! I'm working on two different projects related to goodreads this semester, so I do plan on rolling out some more new topics very soon. This is the first of them.

I'm taking a course where we've been researching virtual communities, most of the research revolving around World of Warcraft and Second Life. Question part one: do you view goodreads as a "virtual community," and if so (or not), why?

Our working definition of virtual community in the course suggests three elements are needed for a virtual space to be a community:
1. Avatars (a representation of yourself in digital form)
2. Spatiality (a virtual space that can be moved around in)
3. Persistence (changes continue effecting the space after you leave it)

Question part 2: Do you feel these goodreads meets these criteria? In what ways are we disadvantaged when it comes to community building when compared to a space like World of Warcraft? What advantages do we have over those spaces?

As always, expound and pontificate as much as you desire.


message 2: by Sandi (new)

Sandi (sandikal) | 17 comments Michael wrote: "Our working definition of virtual community in the course suggests three elements are needed for a virtual space to be a community:
1. Avatars (a representation of yourself in digital form)
2. Spatiality (a virtual space that can be moved around in)
3. Persistence (changes continue effecting the space after you leave it) "


I am going to challenge the definition given of community. What is being described here is a game environment, not a community. I've been interacting on message boards since 2001. I would consider message boards to be more of a community than a game environment. On message boards, you get to know the regulars by their screen name (and sometimes their real name). You communicate about shared interests. Those communications sometimes develop into discussing other things, including personal concerns. It's not unusual for people to ask for advice and for others to share personal experience in answering them. To me, that's community.

By my definition, GoodReads is a community.


message 3: by Michael, Sonic the Hegemon (new)

Michael | 183 comments Mod
I agree with what you're saying about message boards. But, from my experiences in both Second Life and WoW, those spaces are definitely communities as well. Second Life isn't actually a game at all, as there's no objective other than exploration and personal interaction. I've heard it described by a couple SL members as a "glorified chatroom." Smaller collectives spring up over specific interests, which are often reflections of those people's real life interests. Jazz lounges over there attract groups of people who are interested in jazz, equestrian places attract people who like horses, etc.

WoW is surprisingly similar. The communities there are gamers, who talk about both the substance of WoW itself, and also other games, politics, etc. I think certain aspects of the game dynamic make it more difficult to form a tight-knit community, but I would argue that, because of the interactivity, communities are at work within the game.

So, I think these terms express an idea of what it is to be a "virtual space." But, you raise some major issues with seeing these as related to communities....unless goodreads (and other message boards) actually meet these three criteria.

And, maybe we should add a fourth term to what is required for community: regulars. If some of the same people don't continue returning, I have trouble seeing it as a community.


message 4: by [deleted user] (new)

Michael wrote: "Our working definition of virtual community in the course suggests three elements are needed for a virtual space to be a community:
1. Avatars (a representation of yourself in digital form)
2. Spatiality (a virtual space that can be moved around in)
3. Persistence (changes continue effecting the space after you leave it) "


Seems like you want to narrow the idea of "virtual community" down to only those sites/games/worlds that have some form of virtual "space" associated with it.

That definition automatically negates any/all messageboards, imageboards and forums.

A virtual community is really much more than that...

Have you heard of Reddit? Or Digg? Those are virtual communities. They have a sense of history about them, recognizable charcters/personas, and shared ideals/interests. Just because they don't have gamelike characters with pointy ears, horns and the ability to /dance doesn't make them somehow not a community.

A truer(broader) definition of virtual community would be:
1) Some form of representation of individuality(names, handles, icons, characters)
2) Common ground where they can gather(forum, messageboard, in-game space)
3) History(able to see what's come before and add to it)

GoodReads has all of those things and so, in my eyes, it is a virtual community.


message 5: by Jim (new)

Jim (jimmaclachlan) I think GR fits the criteria you specified, Michael. I've been on various message boards since 1987, often as a moderator of some sort, so fairly involved & agree with Sandi on how they're used. As far back as private, dial-up BBS's, the basics haven't changed.

Most were based on a smaller slice of life - a shared interest - but spread beyond it. For instance, one of the very first BBS's I participated in was for the 8 bit Atari. After I'd been on there 6 months or so, we started meeting in person once a month & I'm still friends with one of the guys I met through there.

The next was GEnie, a community that was similar to Compuserve. It was run on GE's servers as a pay service & was cheaper after 6pm Eastern until 8am the next morning because that was when their servers had their 'free' time. I started off, briefly as a paying customer, but then became a topic leader on the Pet-Net. As staff, I got free access at any time, so it was easy to spend a fair amount of time there. (I originally connected at 300 baud, so it took a lot of time even on the completely text based board.) I started the DIY Home Improvement Round Table (sort of like a group here) & wound up being staff for several other RTs, too. We had a convention in Rockville, MD once. There was Science Fiction & Fantasy group. Jerry Pournelle had his own group, too. It also got me access to the Internet early on.

When the WWW came along, GEnie went belly up & many of the folks moved on to other services within the web. I kept in touch with some of them for years. Eventually, I wound up here & find the same sense of community among various friends & groups.

The whole process reminds me very much of the experience I've had moving jobs or houses over the years. There are a few solid friends that I keep in touch with even though life has moved us apart. Casual acquaintances & 'pretty good' friends are around too. I've shared a lot with them while we're solidly connected, but once life moved us apart, we quickly lost touch. Yeah, very much like the real life experience.


message 6: by Sandi (new)

Sandi (sandikal) | 17 comments I like Ala's definition.


message 7: by Michael, Sonic the Hegemon (new)

Michael | 183 comments Mod
"That definition automatically negates any/all messageboards, imageboards and forums."

Ala, I personally feel like message/imageboards can be spaces that are moved around in. For instance, people pass in and out of this particular group on goodreads, look at the threads, then visit other groups on goodreads, browse other people's shelves, then return to their own shelves...all of this is perpetual, interactive space (I think). There's no fixed distance between locations, and these locations aren't visible in the same way that a lake in Second Life would be...but, I'm wondering if that's necessary for a space to be spatial. What do you guys think? Locations in SL and WoW aren't fixed differences apart, either, because teleporting is common.

I think making the differentiation between an "avatar" and a "personal representation" that Ala made is a good one, because it's hard to see a miniscule picture of yourself as an "avatar," and it's hard to say that the info you post on your profile is part of this avatar identity, either. But is it? According to Wikipedia, that ethereal internet guru, an icon used to represent yourself is an avatar. So, how is my little picture not an avatar?

Other than that, I guess I don't see the difference between perpetuity and history. How would you differentiate history from perpetuity?


message 8: by Michael, Sonic the Hegemon (new)

Michael | 183 comments Mod
@Jim, that's fascinating! I'm a late-comer to the internet, not using it much until 1996 or so. I think the connections you've made with people illustrate the community aspect of these sites. It sounds like real connections were made before you met a lot of these people in real life. Similarly, I've met a couple friends from goodreads now, and I'm definitely hoping to meet more when I have the chance. I've gotten gifts from goodreads friends, and sent gifts to people I've never met in RL, as well.

I think it's harder for outsiders to SEE a community when they look at a message board, at a roleplaying forum, or other text spaces like this. It's harder to see these as spaces that are being occupied, and it's harder to see the little user icons as different people occupying that space. But, the connections that people make, and the events that happen in these spaces, speak of community.

Damn, who's gonna come along and disagree? Unless we get really lucky, we may just be discussing the details of why my original "definition" is off-mark. That's incredibly important, but I'd really love someone to come along and grill us with ideas of why it's NOT a community.


message 9: by Jim (new)

Jim (jimmaclachlan) Michael, have you read Future Shock? If not, you should. Written in 1970, Toffler talks about social trends, including the idea of community in a world where people are physically moving a lot more & yet have the communications to stay in touch. IOW, different social groups, not based on where they are, but on what they do. This seems very similar to what you're investigating.

He describes his ideas very well. Early on in the book, he puts humanity's progression into perspective for me through a wonderful example.

...It has been observed, for example, that if the last 50,000 years of man's existence were divided into lifetimes of approximately sixty-two years each, there have been about 800 such lifetimes. Of these 800, fully 650 were spent in caves.

Only during the last seventy lifetimes has it been possible to communicate effectively from one lifetime to another—as writing made it possible to do. Only during the last six lifetimes did masses of men ever see a printed word. Only during the last four has it been possible to measure time with any precision. Only in the last two has anyone anywhere used an electric motor. And the overwhelming majority of all the material goods we use in daily life today have been developed within the present, the 800th, lifetime...


He later goes on to say that 95% of the scientists have lived in the last lifetime, describes cubicle & modular workers. Remember that this was written in 1970 & he has written 2 updated books on the same subject. I haven't read them, but you might want to. I'm sure his views on the Internet are fascinating.


message 10: by [deleted user] (new)

Michael wrote: "Ala, I personally feel like message/imageboards can be spaces that are moved around in. For instance, people..."

It might just be the way I parsed what you originally said, so here goes:
"1. Avatars (a representation of yourself in digital form)"
I hear 'avatar' and I immediately think of it in terms of game characters or images, which is why I broadened it to be just a representation of individuality.

Not every place has/uses images or pics as avatars/icons. Some places only use a screen-name/handle instead, but those would and could still be seen as communites.

"2. Spatiality (a virtual space that can be moved around in)"
Judging from your reply, I'd say this is fine then. But the way you word it here, again, brings to mind a game space.

"3. Persistence (changes continue effecting the space after you leave it)"
I went with "History", though I think we both mean the same thing.

I preferred history because, without an actual history there isn't really a community, you'd just have a gathering.

Maybe it would be better said as "History/Persistence"?


message 11: by Cheryl (new)

Cheryl (aradanryl) I am with you all so far as you identify the essential components but what seems to be missing in the description of virtual community for me is interaction, synchronous and asynchronous, between strangers/friends who share a common interest.

To me, interaction is vital for a site or software to morph into something larger than the pieces mentioned.

I'm not phrasing it satisfactory but I hope you can hear what I'm trying to say.


message 12: by Michael, Sonic the Hegemon (new)

Michael | 183 comments Mod
Maybe it would be better said as "History/Persistence"?

Hmm...I'm trying to think of an example community where persistence is present but history isn't. It seems the only community like that would be one where the members change too quickly for there to be anything passed down, and I think this wouldn't really be a community...

@Cheryl, I think interaction is vital. I'm basing the original "definition" we're talking about off a definition we've been using in a course I'm taking, and I think what they're trying to say is that, when you have avatars, spatiality and persistence together, you will automatically have interaction start occurring. But, I agree that there must also be some similar interest, or some similar goal, or else the various avatars won't keep coming back. Thus, no community.

@Brian, that's an interesting point, and one topic a couple people are researching in my class is the idea of trans-media communities...communities that take place in a variety of different spaces...like people who discuss books, and also help each other search marble for the word "fuck" :) I think that's a really cool topic, but I don't know how the hell you'd research it.

@Jim, that idea of people being united by what they do instead of where they are is one I find fascinating, and I think the internet has already created a bit of a generational shift in how we look at community. Younger people place more value in networks of people who are into the same stuff, whereas older generations--generally--see more tangible value in "forced" communities, like neighborhoods. Americans are significantly shifting away from focusing on "forced" communities. And, even though I'm a little older than those people truly raised on the internet, I also value the relationships I have through topic-related networks more than I value "forced" communities...well, my immediate family doesn't count.

Okay, so here's the new recipe we have:

1. Avatars,

2. Spatiality,

3. Persistence/History,

4. Uniting trait. (This could be be everyone liking books, everyone working on a project together, everyone wanting to gain levels, or everyone living in the same neighborhood.)

Can anyone think of a community that doesn't fit all of these criteria? Does anyone contest the need for all of these elements to create a virtual community?

By the way, thanks for playing, guys :)


message 13: by [deleted user] (new)

"Can anyone think of a community that doesn't fit all of these criteria? Does anyone contest the need for all of these elements to create a virtual community? "

Nope...well, maybe /b.


message 14: by Cheryl (new)

Cheryl (aradanryl) What about a temporary community such as an online course? Some of them form strong communities but without persistance/history.

On the other hand, not all courses become virtual communities, even with these pieces in place.

Maybe examining the difference will help you find the either the questions to ask or answers you seek.


message 15: by Michael, Sonic the Hegemon (new)

Michael | 183 comments Mod
Well, in the sense that posted blog entries, responses, and all of that persists for a period of time, I would say that they are persistent. That persistence ends after a period of months, but, well, I'm sure Goodreads won't be around forever, either. This too shall pass.

I don't know that these communities necessarily have history though; and, at the beginning of any virtual community, there's clearly not history. This doesn't stop the community from forming, so can we really say it's a necessary ingredient?

By the way, I'm about to start a new thread talking about trans-media communities, which came up in this thread, just so yous guys know.


message 16: by [deleted user] (new)

When a community is forming, it really isn't a community yet. It's just folks getting together at first.


message 17: by Jim (new)

Jim (jimmaclachlan) Persistence/history is interesting. One can shape the need for the other. Have you ever been in a very dangerous situation or harsh conditions with someone? What about strangers who survive an airplane crash? The history can be very short, but intense & different enough that it makes folks yearn for persistence even when there is no other commonality among them. Army/war buddies is a good example. Do you think a VFW is a 'virtual community'? Is a class reunion? I don't, but it can be one component.

Communities used to be physical because we didn't have any choice, so other commonalities were forced on people. As communications & transportation became more obtainable, physical communities broke down because often the only thing they had in common was location which has become less & less important. My son, a network engineer for an ISP, works here in Louisville, KY, but he lives in Rhodes Island. He drops in a few days every 3 or 4 months for 'face time'. Still, location can be another piece of the web that weaves a community.

Common interests, such as hobbies, have always drawn diverse folks together, often creating a virtual space in their lives. I wouldn't call this a community, either. It's not a big enough slice of a person's life. It's easily trumped by other concerns; work, family & such.

I think a number of interests have to intersect before people are drawn into any kind of community. Here on GR, we don't just discuss books, but many aspects of our lives. A community needs a lot of ties between individuals. If there is only one, as in a hobby, work or location, it isn't a community but a fleeting collection of individuals.

Michael, you never answered me about reading "Future Shock". Have you?


message 18: by Cheryl (new)

Cheryl (aradanryl) Never thought about it before but I'm not sure I could define community in terms that I would be comfortable saying "this is a community, this is not". One of those "I know it when I see it" type of activities.


message 19: by Cass (new)

Cass This is definetley a social networking site and a virtual community. However I imagine, if my experience on a similar knitting community is anything to go by, you will be surprised at the number of people who refuse to accept that this site is actually a social networking site.

I was a huge WoW player, but as an adult I really experience a different world. I mean the world is populated by 17year old boys. Time and time again I found myself on quests with young boys who were so childish I would not speak to them in a real world. Conversation was limited to quest chatter (and very little else). Guilds meant unchallengable heirarchies formed. At the time I played a player could only be in one guild (the equivalent of having to pick only one GR group to join). I really don't see WoW as being a virtual community. It was a game, and people played together. It is also an addiction and not a great way to make friendships (would you believe we played IRL with a friend in our house but then he moved, we couldn't be friends anymore because I stopped playing. Even our IRL friendship could not transcend the game).

GR is a community, we talk, we get to know each other and each others thoughts. While we might be impressed by what a person has read, and influence by their reading list, we really are not excluded for lack of anything. I am not forced to level a character in order to prove myself worthy of your time.


message 20: by Jim (new)

Jim (jimmaclachlan) Jim wrote: "Persistence/history is interesting. One can shape the need for the other. Have you ever been in a very dangerous situation or harsh conditions with someone? What about strangers who survive an a..."

I forgot to make a case for the flip side of this. The obvious one is family. You have a history that breeds persistence even if you don't have anything else in common.


message 21: by Cheryl (new)

Cheryl (aradanryl) Haven't played WOW but my gaming experience was different. As I read your post, I wondered if you were involved in anything outside of the game, like wikis, discussion boards, etc... Without them, I suspect I would feel something similar to your post.

For a long time, I wouldn't have used the word community to describe GR. I'll confess, I saw it as useful software that was provided free in return for having access to my list/reviews. I only used GR to post reviews, read other reviews and keep my lists. Stayed away from all discussion boards and didn't find any group I wanted to join that wasn't abandoned.


message 22: by Cass (new)

Cass Cheryl in El Paso, TX wrote: "Haven't played WOW but my gaming experience was different. As I read your post, I wondered if you were involved in anything outside of the game, like wikis, discussion boards, etc... Without them..."

Probably. Without a complete thread hijack I did see it from a different viewpoint. Firstly as a teacher I was acutely aware of the age and type of players that played the game (as I was obliged to be careful that I did not end up doing anything that might be considered crossing any lines). The only two places where these boys were not the vast majority was in elite guilds and RPG servers (oh and the occasional AO guild). I did participate somewhat outside the game (wowwiki, guild forums, vent, boards, and of course I read the books). What I mean though is that all the communication is entirely game centered with no serious room for non-game stuff. IMO, Friendships (if you could call them that) where a side affect only, but again I was acutely aware of player age. Once in a guild of hundreds I asked if anyone was over 20yo (nope). I do not object to young adults being involved in my life, but I just didn't want to be the only older adult in the room (that was my day job).


message 23: by Michael, Sonic the Hegemon (new)

Michael | 183 comments Mod
When a community is forming, it really isn't a community yet. It's just folks getting together at first.

Touche. Good point.

Michael, you never answered me about reading "Future Shock". Have you?

No, but it sounds quite interesting. I'll definitely keep an eye out for it as I book hunt!

It was a game, and people played together. It is also an addiction and not a great way to make friendships.

I'm pretty sure other virtual communities are also addictions. I can't send an email without getting distracted by my emails from goodreads about threads that were commented on, reviews that were voted for, conversations in the groups I'm in...I've heard some people have a similar problem with Facebook.

I think you have a really good point about the difficulties in WoW being a real community. Especially at the lower levels, it's hard to keep playing with the same people unless you are all playing together all the time....otherwise, you end up at different levels and have a very hard time grouping up. And, it's harder to have a virtual community with 17 year old boys, I think, because they're so annoying.

I have more ideas, but I've got to run to class, so I'll have to bring them up later.


message 24: by [deleted user] (new)

I have two forums that I frequent daily. Both are offshoots of groups that started out as guilds which started up on the old Star Wars Galaxies forums, long before the game came out.

We managed to play together a lot, but even afterwards we still kept together as a group. Here we are, years later, and we still chat/talk all the time even without a game or anything else as a central focus.

And most of those guys were 17 year olds at the start, who have all now grown up and graduated college and whatnot.

I still find it rather strange that we keep posting away on those forums...


message 25: by [deleted user] (last edited Mar 08, 2011 05:41PM) (new)

Hmm, interesting criteria for community. I don't want to repeat any of the criticisms of the criteria for community listed above, other than to say I agree it's a little game-centric, or sort of hung up on physicality.

My very earliest brushes with online communities happened in '92, when I was a pretty active member of the U of Iowa bbs system. (Holy crap, I have just dated the shit out of myself.) I am now also pretty active on facebook, but that feels less like the old bbs days, because I am primarily friends with people I know irl on facebook (except for some Goodreaders who I have made friends with on both platforms). My fb friendships still primarily move from face-to-face and then to facebook, and not the other way around. My Goodreads friendships are generally from the avatar and then to the irl meeting. I have a few real life people in my GR friends list, but the bulk of them are silent lurkers - my most active friendships on Goodreads started here, and then moved to real life. Does that make any sense? I guess I'm trying to say that for my facebook friendships, mostly they are still tied to a physical meeting in some way, where my Goodreads friendships are not, even though I generally love meeting Goodreaders.

And I've been active on Goodreads long enough that I have some really strong friendships that started here and moved to the real world - be it books mailed from person to person, to phone conversations, facebook friendships, and real life meet-ups.


message 26: by Ian (new)

Ian | 11 comments What I would object to is calling GR a "virtual community" as opposed to simply a "community." Of course, this would depend upon personal perspective and experience.

I, for example, don't use what I would consider an "avatar" on GR; I am simply myself, and I try to be honest about what I represent, not hiding my flaws any more than I would when I meet someone in person. To the extent that I am interacting with, and forming what are essentially long-distance friendships with, individuals acting in a similar capacity, then I am experiencing real community on GR, though admittedly lacking the intimacy of face-to-face contact.

On the other hand, my understanding is there are numerous people on GR who use avatars and are not looking for honest, real interaction with others on topics of common interest. For those people, GR is a "virtual" community, if it's a community at all.


message 27: by Cass (new)

Cass Now that is an interesting idea.
I don't think virtual community is a lesser cousin to plain community.
I have never considered my picture to be an avatar anymore than my picture on facebook might be. I don't think using it represents any reluctance to join a community on my part. However I think it is an image that best represents me and I also feel the same but with regard to names. I prefer a real name (cass) as opposed to a handle/nick (mumof2girls).

In the same way you (or I) would not consider Facebook to be a virtual community. Is that the difference though between a community and


message 28: by [deleted user] (new)

There are lots of reasons not to use one's real identity on Goodreads, and not all of them are dishonest. Some of them are even more honest, whatever that means. (I may just be saying this because my husband is a Ninja Sock Puppet on Goodreads. It started as a joke, and he went back to his real name for a while, but he'd already been so firmly established as NSP that he gave up and embraced the pseudonym. It's not an attempt at obfuscation, it just is.)


message 29: by Ian (new)

Ian | 11 comments I would like to point out that I didn't say anything about profile pics or names. I said I try to be honest about representing who I am. I don't care that people don't use photographs of themselves or their real names. I don't even care if someone isn't honest about who they are on GR. People can do what they want. It is my choice to use a photograph and my real name. It is also my choice to try and represent myself honestly. I have no use for pretending to be somebody else; I'm too old for it, and I'm too comfortable with myself. I like to think that most of my GR friends are representing themselves honestly as well, regardless of the pics or names they might use. But if they aren't, for whatever reason, that's up to them. I'm looking for real community, whether it be at church, work, with my family, friends, or online. Other people aren't. That's all.


message 30: by Jim (new)

Jim (jimmaclachlan) Cass wrote: "...In the same way you (or I) would not consider Facebook to be a virtual community. Is that the difference though between a community and "

You seem to have gotten cut off there, Cass.


message 31: by Cass (new)

Cass Jim wrote: "Cass wrote: "...In the same way you (or I) would not consider Facebook to be a virtual community. Is that the difference though between a community and "

You seem to have gotten cut off there, Cass."


Ah, the joys of a 1yo daughter.

I was wondering whether it was the difference between a community and a network (or in online terms, a virtual community and a social networking site).


message 32: by Jim (new)

Jim (jimmaclachlan) Little ones are such big helpers.
;-)

That's a good question. To my way of thinking, a network is more goal oriented or purpose driven. I belong to a network of network/system administrators. We don't discuss much of anything except computer problems/solutions with related content about vendors & such. One dimensional like a hobby.

A community has more dimensions to it, encompasses the total person, more reasons to persist. That's the point I was trying to make in #18, anyway.


message 33: by Michael, Sonic the Hegemon (new)

Michael | 183 comments Mod
What I would object to is calling GR a "virtual community" as opposed to simply a "community." Of course, this would depend upon personal perspective and experience.

Veeerrrrry interesting. There's probably a continuity between "virtual" and "non-virtual" communities. I would say people are closer to their real identities here than they are on Second Life (in most cases), but less real than we are on Facebook. Then again, if someone is concealing their gender or changing their name on here, does that make it less of a community if our interactions with them are the same? Let's say Brutus is really Sally IRL, but either way he/she has the same opinions about books and good vegan recipes....is our interaction with this person artificial? Does this make it less of a community?

@Jim: This sort of relates to the point I was making above, but what all is included in this idea of the whole person? On Facebook, I include more of my personal information, yet I water down my personality a lot more than I do here so I don't scare relatives and start getting Bibles in the mail. If I had even more outlandish of views than I do, I might not even include my real first name. (Or maybe it isn't my real first name.) So, which would be more real: the Facebook me, or the Goodreads me?


message 34: by Jim (new)

Jim (jimmaclachlan) Michael, to quote the Bard,
All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts,...



message 35: by Jimmy (new)

Jimmy (jimmylorunning) | 133 comments As for persistence vs. history:

I started getting involved in online communities very early... maybe in 95 or 96. I used to frequent these IRC chat rooms, and met a bunch of really cool like-minded people. It was back before everybody could gchat so there weren't that many people in these rooms, so you got to know them very well. Also, it wasn't like a message board where you could go back the next day and see what you had posted... what you say that day is just what you said. It disappears when you leave and everyone else leaves. So in a way, it's like 'Cheers'... just regulars at a bar.

I felt very much like it was a community although there is no 'persistence' to anything. We don't change things in the environment that would last any longer than the chat session. Even the "room" would disappear when the last person left the chat room, and would have to be recreated (always the same name though) the next day. And yet at the same time there was 'history' but this history was contained in each individual member's memory of the community. I feel like this is an example of history without any persistence.

It's interesting having been in many small communities like that when the internet was still a new thing... and now being in much larger networks like Goodreads where there are multiple little nook and crannies and you can spend hours here and never meet or even hear about another regular member if he/she happens to be interested in something completely different (polls/groups/romance novels, etc.)

Michael, when I was in college (more than 10 years ago) I took a class very similar to what you're taking now. It was about online communities and I wrote my paper on a community of music fans on an e-mail list. It might have been 30 people total. I think it's good to expand your definition of communities to cover even the very small ones like that, because even at a big site like this, the relationships you make are with a small group of people with like interests.


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