Online communities are increasingly seen to display the same features accepted as characteristic of communities based on face-to-face interaction. Among the characteristics of “real,” “normal” communities is the ability to grow and thrive by evolving and adapting to, for example, changes in technology and infrastructure. Our experience in online gaming communities also demonstrates this same ability to evolve and adapt to technological and infrastructural changes. One online community that began in 1991 and continues to “live long and prosper” began in conception as a role-playing game called Starfleet and is now described as a shared fiction or collaborative writing group. Set in a fictional universe based on that of the television program “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” this group moved from the Prodigy online service onto Usenet in 1994 (it is still known by its newsgroup name, “alt.starfleet.rpg”), and by 2000 had established a Web-based Yahoo! Group (http://groups.yahoo. com/group/starfleet-rpg/), which continues to be its means of functional interaction. Each of these hosting venues brought with it changes in the means (posts, direct e-mails, Web pages) by which game or collaborative writing activities were conducted. Parallel to these were changes in the rules, policies, and practices of the community. Even the nature and content of the social interactions of the members of the community changed in fundamental ways as its technological manifestation did so.
Key Terms in this Chapter
Usenet (Use(r) Net(work)): A global, distributed Internet discussion system that evolved from a general purpose UUCP network of the same name, which allows users to upload messages, data, and applications in designated “newsgroups” which are automatically propagated worldwide.
Knowledge Technologies: Intelligent, information, or interaction technologies that support the creation and management of knowledge at various individual and social levels.
Verifiable and Evolvable Trustworthy E-Society: While the e-society refers to a part of society system that is implemented as an information system, the system meets the requirements of trustworthiness with regard to its correctness, accountability, security, and fault-tolerance, among others. It is aimed that this e-society system can evolve and progress in accordance with social changes.
Starfleet Role-playing Game: Original name of an online community whose activity is collaborative fiction based in the setting of the television program, “Star Trek: The Next Generation.”
Second Life: An online virtual environment in which users, via a free downloadable client program, interact with other users through avatars and can produce and edit the content.
BBS (Bulletin Board System): A computer system to which users connect by dialing in over telephone lines and which allows upload and download of files and exchange of real-time messages.
Alt.starfleet.rpg: Usenet newsgroup for Starfleet role-playing game (see); current name for that community.
Online Community: A group having the characteristics of a community which conducts its collective activities and associated social interactions over a computer network.