Negotiating Meaning in a Blog-Based Community: Addressing Unique, Shared, and Community Problems

Negotiating Meaning in a Blog-Based Community: Addressing Unique, Shared, and Community Problems

Vanessa Paz Dennen (Florida State University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60960-091-4.ch019
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This chapter addresses how members of a blog-based community share problems and support each other in the problem solving process, both sharing knowledge and offering support. Problems are divided into three categories, unique, shared, and community, each having its own particular norms for presentation, knowledge sharing, and resolution. Additionally, processes may differ based on discourse that centers on one individual blog versus discourse that spans multiple blogs. Findings show that intersubjectivity, norms, roles, and individual ownership of virtual space all are important elements contributing to the problem sharing and solving process.
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Virtual worlds do not exist in isolation from the physical world; what happens in one space readily influences the other. Bloggers, for example, frequently make connections between their online and offline worlds, which may represent actual friendships transcending the different media (Takhteyev & Hall, 2005) or may take the form of shared stories moving from one medium to another. Friendships that form online may not be as strong as those existing in the physical world (Cummings, Butler, & Kraut, 2002), but they can provide social support and contribute to a person’s sense of well-being (Baker & Moore, 2008). Further, there are distinct purposes that those online relationships serve, such as providing support in contexts where face-to-face settings might be uncomfortable or unavailable.

The term “community” is one that has been used in an overly general sense, particularly with respect to online communities. Seemingly any collection of people drawn together by common interest or shared membership on a web site has been referred to as a community, a designation which becomes problematic given that community development requires more than just the ability to communicate in the same space (Kling & Courtright, 2003). In this paper, I use the term community to refer to collections of people who interact online on a regular basis, who have established online identities and are known to each other, and who exhibit collective characteristics such as trust, norms, and shared purposes. As such, communities are not mere message boards but are trending toward (if not actually representative of) what Wenger (1998) calls a Community of Practice.

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