Creating and Sustaining Community in a Virtual World

Creating and Sustaining Community in a Virtual World

David P. Colachico (Azusa Pacific University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-735-5.ch007
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Abstract

We are currently living in an electronic age where it is easier to travel the world, stay in touch with people who live away from our face-to-face environment without the need to leave home or to meet in a real life situation than ever before. The Web is becoming a place where we encounter others in ways to get our personal, social, and professional needs met. As a result of this growing phenomenon individuals are seeking to be a part of online communities of individuals who interact and associate with one another through the Web and the use of modern technology. This chapter will provide an insight into the use of information communication technology to create and sustain community.
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‘Technology…. the knack of so arranging the world that we need not experience it’. -- Max Frisch, (1911-91), Swiss novelist and dramatist in Oxford Dictionary of Quotations (2004, p.335:1).

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Background

Virtual communities, or online communities, are used when individuals within a personal or professional group choose to interact with each other via the Internet. It does not necessarily mean that there is a strong bond among the members as is the case with a face-to-face group. Interaction in a virtual community takes place through email, chat rooms, synchronous learning sessions, etc. An email distribution list may have hundreds of members and the communication which takes place may be merely informational (questions and answers are posted), but members may remain relative strangers and the membership turnover rate could be high. This is in line with the liberal use of the term “community.”

It is useful to examine definitions of what a learning community is meant to be. According to Chang (2003) a learning community is ‘a group that shares ideas and information with all members of the community’. It is also a place where spontaneous learning and active knowledge construction takes place by the individual learners within the community. Chang continues to define this community as ’a virtual social organization of learners who share knowledge and experiences, exchange information as well as collaboratively solve problems in the pursuit of a common learning objective or interest’ (p.28).

Thomas Sergiovanni (1993) defines community as ’a collection of individuals who are bonded together by natural will and who are binded to a set of shared ideas and ideals’ (p.xvi). The members of the community have sought membership into this particular group. Communities don’t happen randomly but are systematically organized and expanded.

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