Me, Myself and Communities – The Conclusion

07Jan08

Over the past 12 weeks I have looked at many issues related to the use, and running, of online communities. Over the Christmas period, in addition to eating turkey until it came out of my ears, I have spent time pondering just how I can wrap everything up in a concluding entry.

In 1970 when R. F. Bale identified the ways in which communities interact, I dare say he never contemplated users creating a whole new personality and interacting with it in programmes such as Second Life. Although we can clearly identify the differences between the first communities which sprung up online during the Internet’s infancy and software like Second Life, there still remains an underlining similarity between those first communities and today’s modern projects.

Despite Facebook being populated by users from different backgrounds and walks of life, the fact is that just like Usenet Newsgroups from the early 90’s, where users gathered due to a shared interest, so to do the users of Facebook where the shared interest is socialising with their peers.

Myspace is a web based community which has evolved a step beyond the obvious social-networking aspect, becoming the in-place for up and coming artists to make a name for themselves and have their songs heard. Likewise there are indeed now many communities which, on the face of it, do not even appear to be ‘communities’ as we have learned to know them. Flickr and YouTube are two good examples of this, where users can share pictures and videos respectively. But again, with these examples the underlining concept behind a community is still there; the shared interest… only unlike the communities of days gone by, these communities stand to make somebody rather rich!

Online communities seem to me to be evolving at such a rapid rate (And I am not just talking about how within two years Facebook has gone from obscurity to world domination). Just look at the rate of technological advances in relation to the communities – How businesses can now freely conduct meetings via video link, or how web applications have rapidly becoming increasingly centred on the user participation as opposed to the web being a source of information. Just 5 years ago when I first began making my own online communities in the form of a message board, the focus was certainly on sharing information and views – this is no longer enough, people are demanding more.

And what about in 10, or 20, years time from now? Will we still be communicating like I am now – via a text based means, or will I have said all of this via audio or video and published that instead? Indeed, will we even need keyboards given the advancements in voice-to-text software? How about our identities, is it still going to be in our hands who knows what about us, or is software like Beacon going to monitor our every move online?

My opinion, based on the speed of web evolution which I’ve observed in the last 5 years – nothing would surprise me.

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