Codes of Ethics in Virtual Communities

Codes of Ethics in Virtual Communities

Calin Gurau (Groupe Sup. de Co. Montpellier, France)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-59904-937-3.ch007
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The development of the World Wide Web has created new opportunities for interpersonal interaction. The Internet allows one-to-one (e-mail), one-to-many (Web sites, e-mail lists) or many-to-many (online discussion forums) interaction, which represent a unique feature in comparison with traditional communication channels (Armstrong & Hagel, 1996). On the other hand, the Internet has specific characteristics, such as: • Interactivity: The Internet offers multiple possibilities of interactive communication, acting not only as an interface, but also as a communication agent (allowing a direct interaction between individuals and software applications) • Transparency: The information published online can be accessed and viewed by any Internet user, unless this information is specifically protected • Memory: The Web is a channel not only for transmitting information, but also for storing information¾in other words, the information published on the Web remains in the memory of the network until it is erased. These characteristics permit the development of online or virtual communities¾groups of people with similar interests who communicate on the Web in a regular manner (Armstrong & Hagel, 1996; Goldsborough, 1999a, 1999b; Gordon, 2000). Many studies deal with the ethics of research in Cyberspace and Virtual Communities (Bakardjieva, Feenberg, & Goldie, 2004), but very few publications relate with the Codes of Ethics used in Public Discussion Forums (Belilos, 1998; Johnson, 1997). Other specialists have analyzed specific categories or uses of online discussion forums, such as online learning (Blignaut & Trollip, 2003; DeSanctis, Fayard, Roach, & Jiang, 2003) or the creation of professional communities of practice (Bickart & Schindler, 2001; Kling, McKim & King, 2003; Millen, Fontaine, & Muller, 2002), and in this context, have also discussed briefly the importance of netiquette and forum monitoring (Fauske & Wade, 2003, 2004). The difference between these online communities and public discussion forums is the degree of control exercised on the functioning and purpose of the forum by a specific individual or organization. This article attempts to investigate, analyze and present the main patterns of the codes/rules of ethics used in the public discussion forums, otherwise known as Newsgroups, and their influence on the profile and functioning of the community.

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