Technology Change and Online Community Development

Technology Change and Online Community Development

Mark G. Elwell (Japan Advanced Institute of Science and Technology, Japan) and Tunç D. Medeni (Japan Advanced Institute of Science and Technology, Japan)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60960-100-3.ch422
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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 ( 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.

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