Internet-Mediated Communities

Internet-Mediated Communities

Carlo Gabriel Porto Bellini (Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil) and Lilia Maria Vargas (Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil)
Copyright: © 2006 |Pages: 5
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-59140-563-4.ch055
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Abstract

Internet-mediated communities (IMCs) emerge when people (their members) share interests and make use for some time of the same class of Internet technologies to exchange information with each other regarding the shared interests. The technological evolution in communications shows that IMCs are not a phenomenon specific to people with certain backgrounds or interests; indeed, the materialization of such communities seems to be limited only by technology, in the sense that a priori no person is put apart from potentially becoming a community member in the future. IMCs inspire academic research in several knowledge fields such as sociology, communications, rhetoric, laws, information management, education, and marketing. Although occurring abundantly in the literature, it is hard to find a satisfactory compilation of concepts for grounding prospective studies on such communities. The industry, in turn, is aware of the business opportunities enabled by IMCs; in fact, business models and investments have flourished in this regard since the first days of the concept (as illustrated in “Are Friends Electric?”, 1997; Hagel & Armstrong, 1997; La Franco, 1999; Machlis, 1998; Sansoni, 1999). A first attempt explicitly proposed in the literature towards rationale building unifying theoretical constructs and business interests seems to be that of Bellini and Vargas (2003); the present article aims to look at its fundamentals and indicate corresponding research lines for future investigation. The article is structured as follows: first, human groups, communities, and the Internet are put together under the concept of IMCs; second, a distinction is made between a community and its place—broadly defined, the realm where the community achieves meaning—and the individuals who shape the community’s identity are grouped in generic profiles found in most communities; third, 12 key factors for studying and implementing IMC Web sites—resultant from extensive literature review and a series of empirical studies—are defined; and last, trends in the IMC field are outlined as they present challenges for several research

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