Virtual Communities Focus Group -- IS 246, Fall 1999

Welcome to the home page for the Virtual Communities Focus Group for Professor Howard Besser's "Social and Cultural Impact of New Information" (IS 246) class.

With the development of computer networks, people are able to communicate with one another in different areas. This resulted in a new form of community, called virtual community, existing outside the limitations of space. In virtual communities, interaction and communication are different than when people meet face to face in physical communities. It therefore has resulted in microcosmic (individual) and macrocosmic (social system) changes in many ways.

To investigate the microcosmic and macrocosmic changes in the virtual communities, this group is divided into two subgroups; one subgroup will examine the individual's uses and gratifications of the Internet, and the other subgroup will examine issues surrounding communications and social participation, social spaces, and social identity.



Individual Communications Resources

Just as all new inventions of communication have done in the past, e-mail is changing the way people communicate with one another. This change occurs at a variety of levels. People begin to choose their words differently, or even use a new vocabulary. People create new rules, and the rules get broken. Some of the communication that used to take place in one mode shifts to the new mode, often bringing people together who couldn't (or didn't) communicate before. Finally, the new format of communication becomes a nuisance or even a burden to some users. In the following sections, we will discuss these issues as they relate specifically to e-mail.

Social Spaces Resources

The Social Spaces subgroup of the Virtual Communities working group is interested in how new information technologies are impacting groups of people in social, political and public spheres.  Generally, we find that people are divided into two major camps on this issue: (1) the techno-utopians (or techno-philes), who believe that these technologies will bring people closer together and open up new possibilities for dealing with social problems; and (2) the techno-dystopians (or techno-phobics), who warn that information technology is destroying any sense of civic good and trivializing social relationships.  We tend to look at both extremes critically to chart a middle course.  The following are the major themes we are addressing with relation to Virtual Communities:

Focus Group Members

Social spaces subgroup Individual dynamics subgroup
Mary Garber,
  Individual paper: Title
Lisa Hall,
  Individual paper: Distance Education Annotations
Bill Pitkin,
  Individual paper: Toward a Theory of Community Informatics
Michael Kirby,
  Individual paper: Threats to Privacy in the Information Age
Ching-Ning Wang,
  Individual paper: Communication Technology and the Retreat of the State
Nelson Tang,
  Individual paper: Differences in Women's and Men's Usage of E-mail

Last modified: 15 December 1999
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