Online communities: Spaces for learning, connection, expression and collective power
Communities can be places for learning, supporting emotional connections, expressing individuality or even questioning hegemonic interests. Looking at a diversity of online communities, this symposium highlights some of the ways online communities influence members within the group as well as support the emergence of subcultures and enact social change outside the group. Drawing on studies of eLearning, virtual worlds, and mageboard websites, these four papers highlight the power and constraints of online spaces for community, action, and learning.
Beyond Virtual: Sense of Community Across Places & Spaces, Jenny Fremlin, PhD
This presentation will discuss how sense of community exists beyond the common online/offline dichotomy. A study of World of Warcraft guild (formal team of players) members across four communities to which they belong will be discussed. Analysis of survey responses, including the Brief Sense of Community Scale and open-ended questions, showed that sense of community varies by community type not only in traditional community settings but also in online communities. Additionally, traditional factors of sense of community were present in open-ended responses describing aspects of sense of community across online and traditional community types. Traditional theories and scales can help us to understand online communities and the potential for sense of community that exists within them. If we accept new forms of social connection, understand that they are not going away but growing, and aren’t afraid to look at them as “real” we should be able to begin predicting which types of online communities offer better opportunities for sense of community and how to improve sense of community in others that need it.