social_organizations

social_organizations - This paper is not to be cited...

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This paper is not to be cited without permission from the author Group, Community, or Social Network: A Discussion Submitted by Lois Ann Scheidt April 28, 2003 In completion of the requirements for S510, Spring 2003 Introduction Group, community and social network are terms that are used almost interchangeably in popular and academic writing. The lack of specificity rarely bothers the reader since every English speaker has a tacit understanding of what each term means in context. To steal from the famous Supreme Court decision on pornography; we may not know how to define the terms group, community, and social network but we know them when we see them. These three types of relationships are essential webs of significance in which humans suspend themselves (Geertz, 1973, p. 5). However, the lack of specificity in defining, using, or operationalizing these terms has lead to a body of literature where well meaning authors state community is declining (Kavanaugh & Patterson, 2002) or thriving (Cherny, 1999); in the real world (Putnam, 2000) and on the internet (Baym, 1997). Each is correct within their frame of reference, however none are wholly accurate. The internet with its complex topography of applications, purposes, and users (Haythornthwaite & Wellman, 2002, p. 10), has been fertile ground for the debate on community. “Virtual communities are sometimes portrayed as a positive alternative to 1 of 24
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Just as often, virtual communities are instead seen as “ersatz” communities…since they cannot be real communities they are fake (Komito, 1998, p. 97).” The extent debate on three arguments concerning the status of communities – community lost, community saved, and community liberated (Wellman & Leighton, 1979) - has been transferred to the new media of the internet. This research found its genus in the question - do strongly linked (Granovetter, 1973) Instant Messenger Networks, where the usual communicative relationship is dyadic, rise to the level of community? In reading community, social network, and dyadic communication literature the underlying question became apparent - what does the author mean when they use the words “community” and “social network,” and how should these definitions be applied in online environments? This paper explores the meanings of community and its relationship to social network and group. Six types of computer-mediated communication (CMC) environments will be analyzed for the applicability of each term. This paper does not distill the hundreds of years of writing on the concept of community, potentially going back to biblical times (Wellman & Gulia, 1996), into any single set of characteristics. Nor does it fully address issues of space or time as they impact on human collectives. Rather it attempts to clarify the issues as far as possible for future use in my research in online environments. Definition
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