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Title: Social distancing close together: the rhizomatic role of WhatsApp in communities - a proposed research framework

Authors: Johannes C. Cronjé

Addresses: Cape Peninsula University of Technology, 51 Paradise Road, Fernwood, Newlands, Cape Town, 7700, South Africa

Abstract: As covid-19 hits its peak, people who are not in close physical proximity but who do communicate regularly on social platforms such as WhatsApp groups often claim to feel a sense of closeness to others. This paper will consider the features and functioning for WhatsApp groups in terms of Preece's (2000) characteristics of a virtual community: people, purpose, politics and computer systems, and filter them through Deleuze and Guattari's (1987) six principles of the rhizome: connectedness, heterogeneity, multiplicity, asignifying rupture, cartography and decalcomania to see the relationship between the principles of the rhizome and the sense of closeness in a virtual community. Finally, a six by four matrix is proposed for the analysis of various aspects of virtual communities.

Keywords: physical distancing; social closeness; rhizome theory; virtual community; WhatsApp.

DOI: 10.1504/IJWBC.2021.112854

International Journal of Web Based Communities, 2021 Vol.17 No.1, pp.65 - 76

Received: 14 May 2020
Accepted: 17 May 2020

Published online: 22 Jan 2021 *

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