a62-ruhleder - Network Community: Virtual Space for...

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Network Community: Virtual Space for Physical Bodies Karen Ruhleder Graduate School of Library and Information Science, University of Illinois Abstract: Increasing numbers of on-line venues for learning and engagement are emerging as virtual spaces become more accessible and commonplace. As analysts, we seek ways of talking about these spaces through a common language for understanding their organization and the nature of the interactions within them. This paper draws on a framework presented by Mynatt, et al., (1998) which provides a lens for viewing on-line community as a set of affordances. I apply this framework in a virtual educational setting, and conclude with a discussion of its applicability as a lens through which to analyze virtual community. Keywords: on-line community, virtual community, CSCW, CSCL, social informatics Introduction As the accessibility and density of communication technologies increases, we ourselves become increasingly frequent participants in electronic interactions which supplement or even supplant face-to-face encounters. How can we characterize our interactions and relationships with the people and materials we encounter in these cybersettings? What sustains them over time, creating a durable sense of connection that is both distinct from and integrated with the physical settings in which we live and work? In short, what makes a community workable for its participants? Past work has offered a broad range of rich approaches for answering these questions. Lombard and Ditton (1997) explore the nature of presence, identifying six ways in which presence in virtual settings can be conceptualized and instrumentalized. Bruckman (1998), taking a constructivist perspective on learning, presents an exquisitely-detailed picture of a MOO community characterized by rich, informal learning and iterative design. O’Day, et al., (1998) also focus on a MOO-based learning community, drawing connections between MOO affordances and design choices. Levin and Waugh (1998) illustrate the ways in which aspects of traditional, face-to-face apprenticeship forms of learning are brought on-line, while Haythornthwaite (1998) tracks emergent and changing patterns of social networks within a small subset of a virtual student body. The introduction to Koschmann (1996) situates these and other types of studies within a broader context of practice. This paper examines these questions with respect to one particular distributed educational community, analyzed through a framework proposed by Mynatt, et al. (1998) for evaluating the affordances of a network community. Below, I first describe the setting upon which I draw. Following that, I outline the model itself, then apply the model to this particular setting. The concluding section discusses the contribution that models such as this one can make both to a more robust understanding of a particular setting and to the broader development of a common, comparative language within this intellectual community.
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This note was uploaded on 06/19/2011 for the course IT 2554 taught by Professor Mohammadali during the Spring '11 term at Abu Dhabi University.

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a62-ruhleder - Network Community: Virtual Space for...

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