Abstract from Beyond the diluted community concept: a symbolic interactionist perspective on online social relations in the journal, New Media & Society
The study of cybercommunity is inevitably linked to the development of the internet amid other cultural phenomena, and cybercommunity as a cultural practice has clearly reached a point of critical mass. The concept of online community has become increasingly diluted as it evolves into a pastiche of elements that ostensibly ‘signify’ community. This study grapples with the concept of community in cyberspace and suggests alternative ways of characterizing online social relations that avoid the vagaries of ‘community’. Based on interviews and a theoretical consideration of online community, it finds that the metaphor of ‘community’ in cyberspace is one of convenient togetherness without real responsibility. This study suggests a symbolic interactionist approach to the examination of online social relationships that is free of the controversy and structural-functional baggage of the term ‘community’. It suggests that community is an evolving process, and that commitment is the truly desired social ideal in social interaction, whether online or offline.