Friday, September 26, 2008

LIS 768: Virtual Communities

Please describe your first experience in virtual communities online.
Does that experience fit some of the definitions? What type of community was it? What behaviours did you find there?

My first experience in a virtual community was Yahoo! Games. Yeah, it's not a typical online community...but it is, if you think about it. By my reckoning, one of the hallmarks of a virtual community is interaction between its members. Well, Yahoo! Games had that. My husband and I usually played card games with others, and there was (is? dunno-haven't played in awhile) a chat function so that the players could 'talk' during the games. It was a transient community; we'd play against people who we might never run into again.

One of the virtual communities I jumped into on my own were on iVillage. Those were really great, and for the most part, did fit the definitions. Although I never met any of the people in real life, some of them became like friends (which was good, considering I was a stay/work-at home mom). I wasn't a leader on any of them (although a couple asked me if I wanted to be), but I was a regular contributor. When I started school, though, those kind of fell by the is a great crucible that way for me...I have to really mind my time well, and any 'extras' quickly get put aside.

There are others that I don't contribute to, but do enjoy on a regular basis, FARK being one of them. I love the humor, wit, and sarcasm (yep, a whole bunch of people like me! yay! lol) of the headlines and comments. It really is a community, complete with in-jokes, sayings, and ignore buttons. There isn't a clear leader, but it's pretty self-moderating (well, mostly). People from all over the world post on it...and for the most part, they're all pretty intelligent and well-informed about world happenings-have to be...when someone spouts garbage, there's a whole bunch of people who'll set their little red wagon straight! Even as a lurker, I have really learned a lot...even though I'm not putting my opinions out there for the community to see, I've ended up rethinking some of my beliefs and truisms. And, like I said, the humor isn't bad, either.

What I like about virtual communities is the dynamics that can happen between a group of people who may never meet face-to-face. One of my favorite shows is "Survivor". I have watched every season, and the way the group dynamics shake out never fails to intrigue me. Those aren't virtual communities so much as artificial ones, I think, but are very similar in how they operate. Before being in a virtual community myself I thought it odd that I would be 'friends' with someone I'd never physically met. Now, though, I think it's kind of cool that my circle of friends was expanded like that.

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