The virtual Community
The current community is in the midst of a digital revolution that is giving way to a new information environment. The way in which individuals communicate and interact has changed since the turn of the century after the birth of the ‘Web 2.0’ phenomenon. The advent of Web 2.0 granted people the ability to communicate through a wide range of media platforms through the internet where they could share various ideas, goals, views as well as perceptions. This was the rise of the information society that is popularly known as the ‘Virtual Community’. Over the years different virtual communities have been taking shape in many forms, involving a variety of people, seeking a platform to present their idea. Nevertheless, despite the growing phenomenon, there is limited information about the virtual community, how it works, its influence to the physical world, as well as how long the virtual community exists a factor that is cause for study.
This article is divided into two primary categories. The first part theoretic giving insight into the evolution of the community through computer networks. This section of the paper centers its discussion on the developments and set up of virtual communities. The second part is a case study analysis that seeks to authenticate the theoretical perspectives presented in part 1.
Discussion part One
The internet is a concept that was developed in the 1950s with the development of electronic computers. At first the world wide web was developed to allow individuals share files from one computer unit to another; however, with time the networks developed to what is recognized as ‘Web 1.0”. Web 1.0 went beyond the basics of sharing data a factor that according to Li, it saw the birth of the first virtual community (23). Web 1.0 indicated characters of communication within its users could have a talk or a chat as it has come to be known. However, this was also limited in capability and was only intersecting to a particular people. Nevertheless, this was the birth of a virtual community as defined by Dasgupta (14). A virtual community is a social network of individuals who interact with specific social media, potentially crossing geographical and political boundaries in order to pursue mutual interests or goals (15). Nevertheless, the evolution of the internet introduced Web 2.0 introduced a more interactive platforms such as social media. The proliferation web 2.0 as provided by smart devices, in particular, the smartphone, as well as social media, allowed individuals to share more interactive, customized, social content offers social spaces where people can share common interests. The feature made online environment create a virtual community.
As aforementioned, a virtual community is an unrestricted group of individuals coming from the various locations of the globe who are found on networks sharing common interests, perceptions, analogies, as well as feelings. As cited by Dasgupta, the introduction of web 2.0 introduced questions as to how technology would change the community as viewed after the invention of the telephone and the automobile (67). A number of sociologists indicated the fear of how modernization through increased use of the internet would alter how people thrive in a community. There were questions about whether the community would become weaker, disconnected, as well as lack the supportive mechanism that build bonds of relationships. However, over time social networks analyst have proven that the internet developed a much stronger community through the networks. Earlier sociologist took for granted the potentials of computer networks in particular social media abilities expansion over large distances of the globe. Additionally, a study by Kisielnicki, indicated that with the developments seen over the years, virtual communities have currently developed a new dimension in how people view dissimilarities in cultures (67). This premise is based on the varied computer-supported social networks (CSSNs) that are currently active through the internet.
The chart above is a graphical representation of the famous computer-supported social networks (CSSNs) as of September 2017. From the chart, Facebook hosts the highest number of users estimated at 2.0661 billion. YouTube is ranked second at 1.5 billion users. WhatsApp is the third, with an estimated 1.300 billion users. Instagram is the fourth with approximately 700 million users, with Twitter coming fifth with 328 million users. The leading social networks are usually available in multiple languages and enable users to connect with friends or people across geographical, political, or economic borders. Approximately 2 billion internet users are using social networks, these figures are still expected to grow as mobile device usage, and mobile social networks increasingly gain traction.
The qualities of Web 2.0 gave way to the development of a variety of communication and interactions platforms. Throughout, the 2000s the internet has grown due to the use of social media sites. According to Leetaru, Kalev, et al, the most active virtual communities are found on social media sites (8). Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, as well as WhatsApp have the highest number of virtual communities each operating on different wavelengths. The Virtual communities on Facebook work on a storyline basis. They are more interested in the lives of the individuals they indicate as ‘friends’. This platform is based on the day-to-day running of matters in an individual’s life. Instagram is a picture oriented. Additionally, Facebook offers a variety of communication options that allow give virtual communities the ability to interact on a more intimate platform.WhatsApp has grown exponentially over the last two years as it more interactive as it involves individuals close to the user. The Virtual communities under this platform are not strangers to each other this makes the conversations much detailed and more interactive. Nevertheless, Twitter hosts the most interactive and vocal virtual communities today.
Discussion Part Two
Throughout the study, it became evident that there are issues of differentiation of the traditional community as well as a virtual community. I conducted a two-week study on twitter specifically on the ongoing issue that involved current US president, the National Football League and the African American professional athlete and the entire black community. The US president Donald Trump for the last month been engaged in a fears online battle against the Black American community as well as the National football league for his comments African American players taking the knee during the National Anthem. The president called for an immediate firing of any player who takes the knee. This statement was interpreted to be racially offensive and the gobble twitter community went on the offensive. President Trump has been subject to twitter clashed but the last one has seen him become a global enemy of racial equality.The questions I set up to verify were
- The nature of On-Line Relationships (Narrowly Specialized or Broadly Supportive)
- How has the online community worked through its weaknesses?
- Does Reciprocity take place in Virtual Communities?
- How Does Virtual Community Affect “Real-Life” Community?
- Does the Net Increase Community Diversity?
My Twitter Community; #racist https://twitter.com/hashtag/racist?lang=en
The handle #racist hosts my twitter community. The community is vocal in regards to issues of racism throughout the world. The community is viscous in presenting its issues against any race and were amount the first respondents to President Trump’s Tweets. Though my study I set out to understand the dynamics of how the group reacted to the president’s accusations of disrespecting the US Flag by kneeling; how they supported each other and how they reacted other racial issues (consistency). Through my study, I personally communicated with individuals from Asia, Australia, Europe, and Africa on the issue. From my analysis from the first day, the community does not respect racist individuals retweeting on @Lebron James comments calling Trump a ‘Bum’. They were vicious in their presentation and highlighted a bond similar to traditional communities. Nevertheless, I had a set of study questions that needed to answer and the analysis is presented below.
The working of a virtual community
From the data presented, it is evident that more of the global population is engaged in social media and are part of a particular virtual community. Nevertheless, there is an underlying that puts to question of the nature of online relationships. According to Law earlier had predicted that online relationships would weaken traditional community bonds, as they would introduce a narrowly specialized view of issues from the once broadly supportive structure (111). The village community is structured in a manner where all members provide a wide range of support to each other in form of companionship, emotional aid, information, services. Through the two week of study, it was clear that due to the lack of geographical boundaries similar support was offered to individuals through the virtual community. One of the traits of a virtual community is that it exists on networks consequent of which individuals from various regions offer support to each other. Hours after President Trump’s announcement of the banning of taking the knee people from other continents were offering their support to the African America community. A variety of world leaders, as well as prominent individuals, indicated their displeasure on how the president took to such a global stage to presents message of racial discrimination. From a personal basis, it was evident that virtual communities similar to traditional ones were supportive and in a way offered a broader perspective of communal support.
Through the two weeks study, there was a clear indication of concern over in the verity of ways the numerous community weak ties between the individuals that make up a virtual community. Traditional communities are made up of members who are familiar with each other. On the other hand, virtual communities consist of individuals who are not familiar with each other. Nevertheless, through the study, this weakness was not experienced. I sent messages to strange individuals who communicated with the premise that they knew who I was. The basic principles that guide communication and interaction are based on the idea that we share the same notion and its repetitive nature, active participation considering the numbers of those involved as well as the often intense and emotionally charged. Social communities cover expenses that include millions of individuals who have a shared view. In the case, one interferes with the dynamics of these communities the backlash is instantaneous and viscous.
It is a common trait for traditional communities to repay to ensure that more is available when needed. As indicated by Wellman and Milena repayment of support as well as social resources might be as connections of the form of aid, give in return in another way, or assisting out a mutual friend in the network (56). A virtual community exists in a manner that access to an idea or a premise is shared with those who are considered one. Nevertheless, there are policies that determine the extent of the access as well as those resources. Particular, communities only accept individuals who show a high aptitude for protecting or developing a prevailing premise be it cultural, racial, or political. Different virtual communities have different agendas consequent of which they have a particular social conversation style, language, as well as protocol. As indicated by Dasguptasocial celebrities have a higher protocol in a virtual community and their views are critiqued or supported in accordance with the prevailing agenda (26). Nevertheless, they too adhere to a particular language that connects with their fellow community members.
Like the previous technologies before it such as the telephone and the motor vehicle, virtual communities have had an effect on the community. Several writers have expressed fears that high involvement in the virtual community will move people away from involvement in “real-life” communities, which are sustained by face-to-face, telephone, and postal contact. As aforementioned, there are different dynamics to every virtual community a factor that is likely to change how individuals interact in the real world. According to Kisielnicki, the interactions of individuals in the virtual community have been identified through reality considering the connection between the user and their online profile or avatar (45). Li, states that through study it is evident that online ties are as strong as face-to-face relationships. With vocal, emotional, as well as enthusiastic members,the relationships between individuals within virtual community individuals are said to have a significant change in how they think (167). This is these interactions are the siren call of a particular virtual community as changes can be positive as well as negative (169). A study conducted by Dasgupta in reference to anti-terrorism indicated that radicalization has reached peak through the 200s because of virtual communities that spread hate(38). Nevertheless, the Arabic revolution is a positive example of how virtual communities may influence the real world communities. Kisielnicki indicates that the 21st-century community neatly divides the world we live in two forms. The first set involves show are seen in person as the other set consists of individuals who are contacted online. Nevertheless, the individuals who interact online become those who are present in an individual’s real life. The online relationship has quickly transferred itself offline.
The final questing through my study was set to analyze how a virtual community enhances diversity. It was apparent that the bonds through online interactions are strong and there is a true sense of companionship. Nevertheless, it was apparent to see how the single issue of racism was affected through virtual communities. It is a fact that traditional communities in particular the US have social issues chief them is racism. The virtual community social issues have a reduced influence and there is increased diversity.
The evolution of the internet since the 1950s to date has seen the development of the virtual community. This community is based on computer networks in particular the internet. Social media sites have offered different individuals from varied global positions to share their notions views as well as perception through a global audience. Through a two-weekstudy, it became evident that the new virtual community is highly supportive, interactive and offer a wide range of support. Throughoutthe years of service, virtual community has worked around its issues and weaknesses forming formidable relationships among strangers. Virtual communities show a high amount of reciprocity that maintains a strong bond between members. Through this study it has become evident the recent changes in the virtual community has affected the real life communities in how they think, interact as well as they talk. It can be argued that over the coming years the virtual community will inspire web 3.0.
Dasgupta, Subhasish (a). Studies in Virtual Communities, Blogs, and Modern Social Networking: Measurements, Analysis, and Investigations, 2013. Print.
Dasgupta, Subhasish (b). Encyclopedia of Virtual Communities and Technologies. Hershey, Pa: IGI Global (701 E. Chocolate Avenue, Hershey, Pennsylvania, 17033, USA, 2006. Internet resource.
Kisielnicki, Jerzy. Modern Organizations in Virtual Communities. Hershey, PA: IRM Press, 2002. Print.
Law, John. “Notes on the theory of the actor-network: Ordering, strategy, and heterogeneity.” Systemic practice and action research 5.4 (1992): 379-393. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2FBF01059830?LI=true
Leetaru, Kalev, et al. “Mapping the global Twitter heartbeat: The geography of Twitter.” First Monday 18.5 (2013). http://firstmonday.org/article/view/4366/3654?__hstc=225085317.e835c34ab7bf88e972fdd7a7debc8575.1436140800094.1436140800095.1436140800096.1&__hssc=225085317.1.1436140800097&__hsfp=1314462730
Li, Honglei. Virtual Community Participation and Motivation: Cross-disciplinary Theories. Hershey, PA: Information Science Reference, 2012. Print.
Wellman, Barry, and Milena Gulia. “Net surfers don’t ride alone: Virtual communities as communities.” Networks in the global village (1999): 331-366. http://groups.chass.utoronto.ca/netlab/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/Net-Surfers-Dont-Ride-Alone-Virtual-Community-as-Community.pdf