Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Jenny Whittemore Fremlin completes dissertation in the School of Psychology

Sense of Community in a Mediated World -- Jenny Whittemore Fremlin
Review of the Literature – Part A

As Internet use becomes more prevalent and access to existing social relationships expands through the use of media, the landscape of community changes. This literature review begins with a broad look at the implications of mediated communities on social interactions. It then provides a review of well-established and emerging sense of community theories and a chronological exploration of scales. Communities in general and massively multiplayer online gaming communities in particular are reviewed across psychology and related social science literature. With this literature review, a need for research on sense of community across multiple communities including social digital games is identified. The literature review concludes that psychological research has been limited in consideration of online communities by categorizing them only based on their mediated nature. It suggests a need for research comparing differences between a variety of communities and an exploration of how members conceptualize sense of community within those communities.

Keywords: sense of community, Brief Sense of Community Scale, online community, virtual community, mediated community, changing community, factors of sense of community, World of Warcraft, MMOG, guilds, social media

Sense of Community in a Mediated World - Part B

Although feelings of sense of community differ within community types such as neighborhoods and interest-based communities, research continues to address online communities as a single concept due to their mediated nature. This study measures sense of community across online and offline communities, starting with teams of players in an online game, to look for differences by community type. Results indicate that guilds, the online game teams, show significantly higher sense of community scores than participant-identified online communities, which mostly include social news sites and social networks. Both guilds and online communities have significantly higher scores than neighborhoods. Participants identified an additional community, labeled communities of choice, that include online and offline groups composed mainly of gaming groups and professional communities. Communities of choice sense of community scores are not significantly different from guilds but do have significantly higher scores than both online communities and neighborhoods. Text analysis of open-ended responses shows that traditional factors are primary identifying elements of sense of community across all community types despite some differences between communities.

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