Since the emergence of new forms of communities in cyberspace, many scholars have attempted to define the nature of those communities—online, cyber, and virtual. Within the social sciences, online, cyber, and virtual communities are used interchangeably as new forms of community in cyberspace. Due to the lack of agreement on the definition of those terms, many studies fail to explain their unique nature (or characteristics).
Key Terms in this Chapter
Online Community: Community exists within cyberspace but is also interconnected with off-line reality. Included are any communities in cyberspace that interplay with off-line reality through off-line communication components, such as face-to-face meetings, off-line flash gatherings, or any forms of off-line activity.
Online Communication Components: Refers to online media (computer-based) and engagement activities in these media, such as bulletin boards, e-mails, IRC, or instant messenger (IM).
Cyber Community: Community exists within CMC environments, specifically cyberspace, which is the virtual space generated by computer networks. Anchoring its online social interaction to cyberspace, this community is characterized by no interconnectedness generated by physical human activities in off-line reality.
Flash Mobs: Characterized by random group acts, not the meaningful and interpersonal encounters that characterize bungae in Korea.
Bungae: Korean term of off-line gathering. Bungae is an instant and spontaneous off-line face-to-face social gathering of groups of people at a predetermined place and time.
Networked Community: Networked community is actually physical communities that are supported by an online network. In networked community, online interaction through communication technologies is considered to be a means of sustaining local community life.
Off-line Communication Components: Refers to the off-line media (noncomputer-based) and engagement activities in these media—such as letters, telephone communications, dyadic face-to-face encounters, or off-line gatherings.
Virtual Community: Community exists within virtual space, which is the imaginary and conceptual spatial construction created by human perception or by the combination of human perception and technology (Tuan, 1975).
Cyberspace: Refers to the virtual location that is generated and digitized in computer networks. Cyberspace is not a equivalent to virtual space that is the imaginary and conceptual spatial construction that exists via the combination of human perception and technology.
Computer-Mediated Communication (CMC): Involves the use of a computer and its relevant network through which social interaction happens between individuals, groups, and organizations. It is a broad term that encompasses many more specific forms of communication including text, audio, and video exchange that people can control using computers.