Virtual Communities

Parks, M. (2010). Virtual Communities. Received from

Goal to define “virtual communities” more. To what extent do people with profiles utilize the affordances of membership, expression, and connection?

“Virtual Communities”: social groups that display the psychological and cultural qualities of strong community without physical proximity (Willson, 2006).

Sharing geographic space and self sufficiency – necessary for “strong communities” are not needed for virtual communities.

Common themes between virtual and real communities:
1. Collective action (Jones, 1995)
2. The group thinks of itself as a community (Bell & Newby, 1947)
3. Members identify with teh community (Willson, 2006)
4. Share information (Carey, 1989; Jones, 1995)
5. Larger patterns of interacting grow out of regular information exchange (Bell & Neby, 1974)
6. Member exhibit attachments to one another and the community more generally (Kantor, 1972; Willson, 2006)

Social Affordances: possibilities for action that are called forth by a social technology or environment. 3 types are required for the formation of virtual communities on SNS:
* Membership: Ease and durability of membership
* Expression: Customizing your page, adding picture, to express yourself
* Connection: Tools to make a connection like messages, groups, friending

Membership activity
Login time
Public or Private profile

Customized page
Profile picture

Number of friends
Number of comments
Number of days since last comment

Membership activity
Equal login time, except people in a relationship moreso than singles
More females set profile to private than men

More than 2/3 did NOT customize their page
Younger and people in a relationship were more likely to customize pages
People in relationships were more likely to have a profile picture

No significant difference in any demographic

Majority of users do not utilize the social affordances necessary to the formation of virtual communities. Qualities of a community are experienced by a small portion of users. More engaged users that did have virtual communities were based of pre-existing ones. Virtual communities are simply the online extension of geographically situated offline communities


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