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Virtual Communities

The term virtual community was coined by Howard Rheingold, in his 1993 book of that name, to refer to those connections primarily forged between people through the medium of their computers. Rheingold's book, subtitled Homesteading on the Electronic Frontier, drew on his long involvement in the WELL (Whole Earth 'Lectronic Link), a group characterizing itself as “the birthplace of the online community movement.” Virtual communities center on the use of various forms of computer-mediated communication (CMC), a novel phenomenon in the early 1990s but now a pervasive feature of life across large parts of the world. The “affordances” of information and communication technologies give rise to different forms of virtual community, some synchronous (e.g., chat rooms), others asynchronous (e.g., e-mail discussion lists). Of course, virtual ...

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