"Communities are networks of interpersonal ties that provide sociability, support, information, a sense of belonging, and social identity" (Barry Wellman). Castells in his briliant book The Internet Galaxy makes the point in quoting Barry Wellman’s definition of community that there has been a profound shift in paradigm from the traditional concept of communities, which are based on the sharing of values and social organization and spatialy bounded to “network as the central form of organizing interaction….Networks are built by the choices and strategies of social actors, be it individuals, families, or social groups.”
I submit that since not every group can be defined as community, the context is of paramount importance when we look at any group. Whilst a community is also an affinity group, an affinity group is not necessarily a community. Understanding the context behind any group is crucial especially in this post-modern world where everything is fluid, without definable boundaries and nothing is fixed (although post-modernism has been under the deconstructionists’ scalper for some time). The most obvious although not the only determinants of virtual community are:
- Boundless spatiality.
- Time: real-time, near real-time, synchronous, assynchronous.
- Flexible structures and processes.
- Perpetual ephemerality & emphemerality, which I believe is particularly virtualization play specific trait. I can't think of any non VC exhibiting such traits. This virtualization phenomena was evident even on micro level whilst studying the communities of play.