ORIGINAL PAPER Daniel Memmi The nature of virtual communities Received: 25 February 2004/ Accepted: 10 August 2005/Published online: 1 February 2006 Ó Springer-Verlag London Limited 2006 Abstract The impressive development of electronic communication techniques has given rise to virtual communities. The nature of these computer-mediated communities has been the subject of much recent debate. Are they ordinary social groups in electronic form, or are they fundamentally di±erent from tra-ditional communities? Understanding virtual communities seems a prerequisite for the design of better communication systems. To clarify this debate, we will resort to the classical sociological distinction between small traditional com-munities (based on personal relations) and modern social groups (bound by looser, more impersonal links). We will argue that the discussion about virtual communities is often vitiated by a simplistic assimilation to traditional com-munities, whereas they may be in fact quite di±erent and much more impersonal. Virtual communities are often bound by reference to common objects or goals,
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