Beyond Virtual: Sense of Community in a Mediated World
Jenny Fremlin, Ph.D., Alumna, School of Psychology (2012)
As Internet use becomes more prevalent and access to existing social relationships expands through the use of media, the landscape of community changes. 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. In contrast, 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. 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. Results indicate that that we can use a sense of community scale to measure this factor in online as well as offline communities. However, there are difference between online communities as well as between online and offline communities. Additionally, traditional factors of sense of community were present in open responses describing aspects of sense of community across community types. Traditional theories and scales can help us to understand mediated communities and the potential for sense of community that exists within them, but it is also important to look beyond their mediated nature and at the communities themselves.