Title: What is an online community? A new definition based around commitment, connection, reciprocity, interaction, agency, and consequences

Authors: Michael Hammond

Addresses: University of Warwick, Coventry CV4 7AL, UK

Abstract: This paper explores the concept of online community. It is divided into three main sections. The first examines the challenge of defining the concepts of community and being online. The second looks at definitions of online community as well as the ways in which the term has been used across a wide range of contexts, covering issues of attachment, emotion, community strength, motivation for participation, and relationship to technology. The third provides a general definition of online community around six key elements: commitment; connection to others; reciprocity; interaction; agency and consequences. The paper sensitises practitioners and researchers to the contested nature of community and provides a definition that is both broad and complex.

Keywords: affordance; agency; strong ties; weak ties; online communities; virtual communities; web based communities; commitment; connection; reciprocity; interaction; consequences; attachment; emotion; community strength; motivation; technology relationship.

DOI: 10.1504/IJWBC.2017.082717

International Journal of Web Based Communities, 2017 Vol.13 No.1, pp.118 - 136

Received: 07 Sep 2015
Accepted: 12 Feb 2016

Published online: 09 Mar 2017 *

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