Some final thoughts . . .

Emily: "Throughout this term, I have learned a lot of interesting things about virtual communities from the focus group discussions, from readings, and from my own experiences with using IRC. Overall I found these communities to be full of more complex issues than merely being about to chat with others. Issues involving how we view communication, interaction, relationships, stereotypes, and norms come into question in a virtual community. I think that these communities are problematic for many people because they are not traditional forms of interaction. However, I tend to view them as advantages which provide new chances for interaction which would have been unattainable through traditional means. However, I tend to view them as advantages which provide new chances for interaction which would have been unattainable through traditional means. I still have many questions about virtual communities which should be addressed. Will the changes in technology affect how these communities function? For example, many virtual communities continue to exist because of the anonymity they allow people. This anonymity, as I explored in my final project, allows people to have more freedoms for interaction and exploration on-line. However, as technology becomes more visual in the future, will this aspect change? Also, since the Internet is growing more popular, I wonder if virtual communities will cease to seem as strange when more people learn about them. I tend to think that the stereotypes of the users of these communities might be keeping others from trying virtual communities. Ignorance does not help people meet others or learn new things. By exploring virtual communities of any kind, I think that many people would find that there is more to them than was originally thought."

Alaina: "One of the most interesting things that resulted from our focus group meetings and readings (and individual readings) was that I gained a much better understanding of what virtual communities are, and how they can affect people. I had no idea that these communities could constitute such a large part of people's lives - and I was surprised to hear how important their virtual community is to them. It is easy to criticize these virtual interactions, especially when the norm has been to have in-person communities. Over the term, I came to realize that for some people, these virtual communities were preferable to their "real life" communities. And as a result, I could no longer think that virtual communities were somehow a lesser type of community. Virtual communities may not follow the traditional notions of community, but they do have a place in the lives of enough people that they must be taken seriously."

Cherie: "The efforts of our focus group brought up some interesting issues, regarding virtual communities as well as what defines community in general. Looking at Rick Prelinger's Ephemeral Films in the Media lab was another cautionary tale about how society can be manipulated through images in the interpretation of their own sense of community. As technology gets more sophisticated and our information choices become more diverse, it will continue to task our personal assessment abilities to decide what is a valuable use of our time, with regard to our communication, work, entertainment and leisure. Our focus group has helped me form a conclusion similiar to that of Sherry Turkle -- that we should be mindful of what influences our lives and we should work to take the lessons we learn from our interactions through virtual communities into the flesh and bone communities of our lives."

Paul: "One of the interesting things raised by our focus group and in the readings was the issue of how a virtual community can function as both an entity removed from most standard definitions of what constitutes a 'community' (geographic, having a more intimate familiarity with people, etc.) and as a supplement to a more traditional community. For some, the virtual community served as more of a replacement for traditional communities, for other, it facilitated communication within it. Still for others, including myself, virtual communities did both. I would like to examine how the forms and our conceptualizations of computer-mediated communications, such as the Web and email, serve to define how we relate to these mediums both politically and socially. For example, if we think ourselves as lone individuals in the midst of a vast sea of "cyberspace," how does that impact the way we view ourselves as individuals in our society (whether we view ourselves as being empowered to make social change, or just be passive recipients of news, etc.) or as individuals relating to other people or groups of people. I would also like to explore ways in which those of us in the library and information sciences can impact these virtual communities in a more proactive and "take charge" approach, not just to catalog resources, but to fight for broader access to CMC's at the public library and public school level."

This document was created and is maintained by the Virtual Communities group in Howard Besser's ILS 604 class (Winter 1996).