The Concept of Community and the Synchronous Computer-Mediated Communication of the Internet


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Virginia Tech


The concept of community has been of great importance to sociologists throughout the discipline's history. There has been numerous definitions used in research. However, according to the literature, most agree that community must consist of geographical proximity, regular interactions, and shared goals. These definitions, and any consensus, are again being challenged by the creation of new communicative technologies. In particular, with the creation of new social spaces by computer technologies such as the Internet, the potential exists for community to occur in many new ways.

This paper looks at the types of community that can exist in the various social spaces created by the Internet. These spaces are conceptualized and explained comparing the various ways and types of communication that are occurring in the various facets of Internet. The literature indicates that community is occurring in some of these Internet technologies, such as USENET. However, no such literature exists for IRC networks. This research focuses on an examination of the type of community that occurs on the Internet's synchronous Internet Relay Chat network using computer-mediated-communication. Naturalistic inquiry is used to examine how community exists in two separate channels of an Internet Relay Chat network. The concepts of geographical proximity, regular interaction, and shared goals are examined in relation to this technology. In a final analysis, the importance in examining the community occurring in these new social spaces is detailed. This type of social space is fast becoming a very important area for researchers as Internet usage is growing daily and becoming more prevalent in everyday society.



social interaction, irc, community, internet