Wednesday, April 25, 2007

The Last? Le gasp!

Okay, my final definition of community is a group of interactive members with an organized system that differentiates not only between members and non-members but between how interactive members are.

Yes, I believe social capital can exist solely online. Take, for example, people who regularly play online games with other PCs (player characters). In order to play together, they must form trust. You aren't going to go questing with someone who's going to leave you halfway through because that's troublesome. PCs often "get to know" other PCs in games simply because it's easier to participate in higher levels of the game with others. As a result of this purely online interaction, a feeling of reciprocity will emerge whenever one of the players desires aid from the other.

Social networking online is part of the solution. People are very busy, be it with work or school, and they sometimes don't get to spend time with their friends. Online social interaction helps these people to keep in touch when they are unable to meet. It will not replace face-to-face interaction, like the telephone, the interent is merely a way to stay on the "up and up" with your friends.

Putnam's problem is that he uses the word "meet" as a clarifier for social capital. His definition as outlined on the site doesn't exclude online interaction, but some of his examples do. If you'll remember, Lin disagreed with Putnam's method of measuring social capital because of its emphasis on real life "meetings." If Putnam instead used a word like interact, then it wouldn't be an issue that separates real and virtual social capital.

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

MySpace is Fixable?

Proposed ways to fix MySpace and save it from the slow death it appears to be suffering now.

1.) Have those who work on it forced from their caves.

How can people working on the site know what's really wrong unless they've experienced it? Personal experience is very valuable, thus, one way to help save MySpace would be to have its workers exposed to the problems. This would help them gain a better understanding of the problem as well as see why/how said problem works.

This extends to error messages, the compatability issues between Macs and Windows, and what I call SPAM friend requests.

2.) Enact something to promote closeness between members.

At this point, it seems like the only thing that all MySpace members might get up in arms about would be a major, major change that went south (ex. like what happened with Facebook). However, surely MySapce still has the capability to offer incentives for competitions. A good competition offered to groups for some achievement in the name of MySpace would be good press and it would also cause any groups interested to grow closer as they worked toward a common goal.

3.) Have better user controls and make knowledge of these controls easy to come by.

The more control users have over the information they let others see, the safer they feel. However, just installing better user controls wouldn't be enough. The controls must also be easy to use and easy to find. If you have the capability of doing something, but it takes forever because it's hard to find out how, people will still be unhappy.

Sunday, March 4, 2007

Community Part Deux

As per instructiones, I shall once again attempt to define community without looking at my previous definition. Oi.

For a community to exist, there must be an organized exchange between individuals who are part of it. These individuals must be linked together either through one strong commonality, many different commonalities (like weak ties) or some fusion of these.

Their exchanges must be frequent enough for the members to feel some sense of loyalty or belonging to the community and the community at large must actively recognize a person as being part of it. This can differ from person to person depending on what types of exchanges occur and how many of the community members they have strong and/or weak ties with.

There must be a center, an individual or group of individuals who are somehow more important to the community than others, as well as people who fall on the fringes of the community. The people in the center can be those who have long been active members who contribute to the community in their exchanges and those on the fringes might be people who either haven't been members long or who don't participate very often.

Lastly (and leastly), communities are not all dependent on location. Online communities have shown us this, but it was true even before the Internet was popular. For instance, Air Force communities are formed by members of this military branch simply through being part of it.

Yes, I believe that covers it. I'm sure there are other aspects of community that other people might see that I did not, but this is all I can think of.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Une, deux, trois

The three questions... Ah, this should not be so difficult...

Q1: How do the criteria defining what it takes to be a member of online communities differ depending on the community?

To answer this I mean to look at the goals (if any) of online sites such as Facebook,, and Secondlife and see what drives the interaction of their members.

Q2: What limits should be placed on the term community and how are these limits linked to structure, frequency of communication and social capital in an online network?

This one is a doozy, but I hope that it will help clarify views on community that are left open in the previous question. It is also tied to Q3.

Q3: How do online communities replace real world communities and what are the repercussions of extended amounts of time and energy being focused on online communities? Do the effects vary depending on what being a part of a certain online community entails?

Okay, yes, that was 2 questions. But, they're related, so I hope it's okay, ne? Oh, I'd like to somehow tie in how feedback affects interactions in online communities, somehow, at some point in the future.

Yes, I am now done.

Friday, February 9, 2007

Paper/Project Proposal

I want to explore how the internet has redefined the word community and discover the possible repercussions and benefits of investing in different types of online websites, with a compare and contrast between sites that are communities and those that are not.

To do this, I will put first together a definition of community by visiting several dissimilar sites that claim to be online communities. This definition will be measured against the definition of community before the widespread use of the Internet and then I will support my definition with examples and illustrations as to how and why some of these websites are (or can be) communities and how some aren’t. Because I have yet to determine all of my criteria for a community, I cannot give a solid list of websites that are and aren’t communities at this time. However, Facebook will probably be listed as a community, whereas Amazon won’t.

Then, I will break down websites that are not communities into two other types: those that can possibly become communities and those that cannot. I will show how there are sub-sections of certain non-communal websites that have broken off to form communities, then I will compare and contrast sites that promote online communities as I define it in order to show differences and similarities within the community definition as it pertains to different types of social interaction. For example, has quite dissimilar interactions than, ( promotes meeting in the real world where maintains a web based relationship) and so on.

After doing a compare and contrast between different sites that enable (or disable as the case may be) social capital, I will look at the possible benefits and risks associated with each in an attempt to show whether this online building of communities is beneficial or detrimental to a person in the long run. To do this, I will likely have to look at the opportunity cost of visiting particular sites and weigh them against real life interaction as well as involvement in other sites. For example, Jo spends all day playing World of Warcraft. Before getting this game she spent her days outside running track and chatting with friends using AIM. Is she better off now or before she got the game and why? How do the different types of interactions affect her? I will also look at how the amount of information being given and received from “online buddies” determines your social standing with one another via the internet and how this can be either a good or bad situation.

I expect that somewhere I will address the problem of internet addiction and when exactly it becomes a problem as well as how the specification of interests available on the internet makes it easier for people to communicate with others who have the same interests.

At some point I may also have to point out flaws in the attempt to define community because of how social perceptions vary, but that won’t be any time soon.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Community, Not Again!

I remember this 'community question' from ENG 101. It took me forever to nail down a definition that I was willing to stick by (read: felt that I could defend well fairly easily). This time, however, I'm ready. Maybe.

For a community to exist, there must be active communication between members who have a sense of group identity. A community must also have a structure of some kind. Size and location aren't very important. But, communication is key!

If members in a community do not interact in some way (preferably by sharing thoughts and ideas) then defining themselves as a group is impossible. If you never had any form of contact with anybody in this class (with the same going for everyone else) then the class would not be a community because it would be impossible to feel any real bond between yourself and your classmates.

Structure is less a requirement of community and more a result of human nature. Any time humans come together to form groups a heiarchy developes (government, for example).

That about covers the general idea I have of community. I might go into more detail later.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Social Capital

Based on things so far, the best definition of Social Capital (hereafter SC) that I can come up with is that SC is the total amount of assets available to via social connections. I'm including as assets material things (money, any "borrowable" item) as well as non-physical things. Ah, that sounds a bit weird, doesn't it?

A borrowable item that's an example of SC would be a car. If you are in a traffic accident that puts your vehicle out of commission for a few days, a really good friend might lend you a car so you can get to work/school.

An example of a non-physical asset is the support (or backing) of an individual or group. Say you're running for office. Not only do you need lots of money, you also need some good support from the community. If a local hero goes on television and promotes your cause, it will bolster your reputation (good by association).