December 10, 2003 10:34 AM   Subscribe

I am writing a term paper right now on Virtual Community (surprise - I am using MeFi as my case study!). Can I ask people here if they consider MeFi to be a 'real' community? Why or why not? (Interpret 'real' as you will). Also, any links to prior MeTa discussion on this topic would be grrreat. Thanks!
posted by Quartermass to Society & Culture (11 answers total)
'Community' seems a fairly nebulous term to me. Its use to refer to all the people who happen to be in a geographical area, or who fit some very general characteristics means that it has little value. If you adopt some definition such that it is a group of people who actually come together to communicate around a central concept (however generally that concept is defined) then I'd say we are a stronger community than others which are given the tag, and thus deserve the tag.
posted by biffa at 10:50 AM on December 10, 2003

I will not do your homework for you.

But I will tell you this much: for a concise analysis of an online community, you would need two social environments. One, of course, would serve as a "control group", thereby reducing the prospect of misinterpertable findings.

Exactly how you'd establish the comparison/contrasts, of course, is the key to an engaging thesis.
posted by Smart Dalek at 10:57 AM on December 10, 2003

Here's an interesting thread, the product of a very brief search. I'm sure there are others. It's been talked about ad nauseum (just like everything else!)
posted by PrinceValium at 10:57 AM on December 10, 2003

Response by poster: Thank you for the advice Smart Dalek. I am preparing a masters thesis on this topic for which I will be using a control group (the logistics of which are headache inducing). This paper is more qualitative in nature, and thus I am using comments etc. to get at how people perceive online community (as opposed to whether or not MeFi is a community).

I admit it is kind of half assed, but I needed something to hand in to my supervisor before Christmas so I thought I would try out the new feature. Ha.

Thanks for the link PrinceValium.
posted by Quartermass at 11:13 AM on December 10, 2003

My perception on why I think Metafilter is a communitiy is because of the way we communicate with each other; Just like any other community there are people who dislike each other, people who just like each other, and people who dislike a person but like them later.

Another thing that makes this a community is its strong political 'wars'. I've never written a master's thesis, but the politics in this damn place could fill a chapter or two.

Who knows, maybe everyones a bot but you, and these bots are run by a God program just to see how you react to different things.
posted by Keyser Soze at 11:47 AM on December 10, 2003

Quartermass, I wrote an article about various successful aspects of a community, and I've also written about the design of MeFi extensively in one book, and about community and weblogs in another book. I'd say this whole book about the subject is a must read too, though some of the info may be out of date by now. See if your college library can score you some copies of them all.
posted by mathowie at 12:10 PM on December 10, 2003

Response by poster: Thanks Matt. I have read your works (and unforgivingly tear them to pieces - j/k), and they have proved to be quite usefull (and really well written). I was not aware of the article though, so thank you.
posted by Quartermass at 12:19 PM on December 10, 2003

MeFite squirrel did a thesis on blog community as I recall, which was linked to from a MeTa thread a while back. I don't have time to search.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 12:59 PM on December 10, 2003

There was that MeTa thread about being able to expunge your existence from the site's records when you left, and it had a lot of fun soul-searching on the "realness" of this community. Can't find it now, but, um, did you try checking this site?
posted by soyjoy at 1:29 PM on December 10, 2003

I don't know about community, but mobs form occasionally on Metatalk.

But seriously, my opinion is that there is a core community surrounded by casual posters then lurkers. Kinda like the solar system only Matt gets to have solar storms.
posted by konolia at 2:01 PM on December 10, 2003

My impression is that a lot of the community stuff happens on #mefi and e-mail.
posted by fuzz at 10:00 PM on December 10, 2003

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