Real Tools for Building Virtual Communities

poster / demo / art installation
  1. 1. Rivkah K. Sass

    Thomson Technology Services Group

Work text
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A rich and complex social structure of computer-mediated-communication has evolved over the past several years, allowing people to share their personal and professional interests with other members of a community that exists only in the minds of the users and through the communication lines that bind each to all.

The World-Wide-Web has opened doors for collaboration and communication in exciting new ways, allowing students, scholars and other interested parties to enrich the learning environment beyond the confines of classrooms and libraries and to literally expand horizons beyond all geographic boundaries. Formalized virtual communities whose purpose is to enrich the communication experience enhance this experience and provide a new dimension to the learning experience.

Virtual communities can trace their roots to The Well, an eclectic and energetic virtual gathering place born in the San Francisco Bay Area in 1986. While its primary purpose for existence was for the informal sharing of insights and opinions, it has provided the basis for most of the data on what makes a virtual community of any type, whether scholarly, business-related, or personal, tick.

Building a dynamic, viable virtual community that enhances the learning experience, allows users to exchange useful information, and ignites the fire of learning is more than installing appropriate hardware and software. It requires planning, collaborative effort, a sense of adventure, and a set of behaviors that must be adopted by each individual participant as well as the group as a whole.

This session will provide a practical look at the issues surrounding the building of successful virtual communities, as well as providing useful and usable suggestions for developing a community of communication. Topics will include:

A definition and tour of exemplary virtual communities

Description and identification of the components needed for installing and running a web-based conference (virtual community) and a discussion of the various software tools that are necessary for building virtual communities

Advice and recommendations on guidelines and behaviors for sponsors, hosts and members

Information on host training including responsibilities, roles, and techniques for encouraging information exchange

Suggested Readings and Sites of Interest About Virtual Communities

Following are electronic links to sites with valuable information, or references to printed works that might be of interest.

1. Bruckman, Amy. "Finding one's own space in cyberspace." Technology Review, January, 1996.

2. "A Business Researcher's Interests" (<>) This site offers an abundance of information on virtual organizations from a business perspective, discussing the value of virtual communities as well as other trends in technology. Follow links from "Virtual Corporations & Network Organizations."

3. Hagel, John, and Armstrong, Arthur. Net Gain: expanding markets through virtual communities. Harvard Business School Press, 1997.

4. Macavinta, Courtney. "Chat Goes Beyond Online Services." (<,4,11189,00.html.>)

5. Rheingold, Howard. The Virtual Community: homesteading on the electronic frontier. Addison-Wesley, 1993. Full-text version is available at The Well, <>.

6. Smith, Mark and Kollock, Peter. Communities in Cyberspace. University of California Press, Winter 1997. A look at the sociological aspects of virtual communities. An excerpt can be found at <>.

7. "What is an Electronic Community?" (

8. Woolley, David. "Choosing Web Conferencing Software." (<>)

If this content appears in violation of your intellectual property rights, or you see errors or omissions, please reach out to Scott B. Weingart to discuss removing or amending the materials.

Conference Info

In review

"Virtual Communities"

Hosted at Debreceni Egyetem (University of Debrecen) (Lajos Kossuth University)

Debrecen, Hungary

July 5, 1998 - July 10, 1998

109 works by 129 authors indexed

Series: ACH/ALLC (10), ACH/ICCH (18), ALLC/EADH (25)

Organizers: ACH, ALLC