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Online communities

Online communities

An online community (virtual community) is a group of people who communicate through email, especially via Internet forums, mail, telephone, for professional , social, educational reasons, or otherwise. The word online is used to mean that it is no face to face communication.

Some communities are purely virtual, others persist in reality: the Web allows to manage schedules, organize meetings, pass information.

A relationship between an individual and a virtual community is changing: it begins as an onlooker (observer, or lurker), then it becomes a novice (he begins to participate), then it becomes a regular, then he may be a leader, and he will end up being a senior (who gradually loses interest).

Examples of Web-related communities: Usenet, Wikipedia, MySpace, Facebook, Second Life, Google+ …

Examples of collaborative platform Agora project, eGroupWare, Zimbra …


The motivations of the participants are not all belong to responsibility of altruism, various theories can be used to better understand the different elements involved in this motivation, such as social exchange theory proposed by George Homans, based on a quasi-economic view & utilitarian (people interact if they perceive a benefit in this exchange).

Unintended consequences: Addiction, out of reality, various illegalities, multiple personality, spreading rumors …

Reasons involved in the contribution of individuals:

  • Looking for social interaction.
  • Need for recognition (Egoboo): hackers, proud of their reputation, are reluctant to change their identity and get caught because of it.
  • Looking for efficiency, and sense of control over things (theory of self-efficacy –  Albert Bandura).
  • Searching communion discussions and sharing experiences.
  • Anticipating reciprocity is a disservice hoping that the Other will do the same.

Online identity

The identity and existence of the participants arising from their singularity: it is more easily expressed through testimonies that experienced than by an analysis of the news, which itself can generate competition, mess, divergent opinions. The fineness of the testimony was to affirm the uniqueness and quality of the actors of the Community.

The profiles of the users

Like the linguistic community, a virtual community is not homogeneous. It allows to adapt the daily life to the global social networks. To reach this conclusion, several methodological tools are available, including ethnomethodology. In short, from semi-structured qualitative interviews, it is possible to analyze how individual speakers describe their world and the Internet in particular. It is therefore of their statements to establish different identity profiles:

First, there is a very visible circle, representing the “hard core” of Internet users, a common symbol of belonging to a common (but exclusive) community, where practices, representations, feelings, commitment are one. Inside, there are activists: fans, purists but especially the most committed of all the fighting, using a level of sustained language (systematically correcting the faults of others).


Rather this profile relates to young people who have a critical and realistic speech vis-à-vis the circle of “engaged” they oppose. They orbit the nucleus like satellites (at this stage, some “volunteers” would say they are not interested in the Internet and they do not fulfill the criteria for membership). These are undecideds, representing speakers who are still looking, which do not identify the kernel and want to exclude because they want to change the image of the community of Internet users but without “passing of the other side. “Some have major sociolinguistic membership criteria core (apart from certain much more open, freer, more mestizo representations).


On the outskirts, harmony is hard to find. Coolers, or “chameleon”, live without apparent conflict of their multiple affiliations. Nomadic, moving from one community to another. This does not mean that they are not attached to an Internet community in particular. From a low level language, they are complexed. For now, they are away from their community, waiting and looking towards her. They want to assert their plural membership.

In contrast, there are those who are very attached to the use of Internet and virtual communities in particular, they use it even in their trade. They are not as far-savvy virtual activities and even rites, because they have a pluralistic representation of the Web. Belonging to the elite, yet they want (mostly) not part of the core. Further still, there are those who do not engage in activities on the Internet (they hear about so far); which does not mean they will never be part of one of the above mentioned circles.

Translated from Wikipedia

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