Communities and ICTs


This post is inspired by my personal and professional projects which deal with communities who use the Internet (information and communication technologies) in order to support their organisation and communication among other things. Facebook and Ebay are only two examples of these kind of communities. I was asking myself how much ICTs contribute to the establishment and sustenance of communities.

First of all, let us have a look at the different kinds of communities which exist. Let me name some (I am pretty sure this list is not exclusive) categories: sports clubs, political clubs, circle of friends, networks, organizations, political parties, interest groups, online clans, families or colleagues. What do they have in common?

A community consists of at least two people. They have a common interest (or several) to which this community is dedicated to. They agree an formal or informal standard operational procedures and rules and create certain ties between each other due to the membership. But why are there communities?

Communities can help you to achieve goals you could not achieve on your own and they allow you to join a social environment. The first is for example important in democracies in order to allow people to be beard while their political will is accumulated by a political party. Social environments are important for the personal well-being and integration into the social environment.

An ordinary community we might all know is a sports club. The people exercise together, play together, go to outings and have a couple of drinks and barbecue with theit families after a game. Their are no ICTs involved (apart from mobile phones to coordinate and communicate). They might have a website but in general this community is fine without ICTs and has existing long before ICTs got their place in our society. Another example is the family.

However, since the 70s, there are also purely online communities. They are founded and run completely in cyberspace. The oldest ones are probably the bulletin boards on which the engineers who were working on the Internet discussed where to go. Another (in cyberspace literature) famous community is the role playing game LambdaMOO. These communities do not involve RL commitment. Of course members of these communities might meet in Real Life but the interaction is done online.
A third group is arising more and more – and even converts communities from the first grooup. The RL-based community which uses ICTs to faciliate their processes.

Even though you cannot deny that a political party is completely based in Real Life, it can hardly exist in the modern world without the massive use of information and communication technologies. Campaigning is done online and via social networks. Databases for users facilitate internal decision-making processes. Information can be shared and communication can take place on online party portals, via email or messengers. Not denying that meetings in RL are still very important, the political party of today needs ICTs to function – even on the local level. This development also applies for pressure groups and also for circles of friends. Me and my friends in Germany have a simple board in order to share stories (e.g. what I am doing in the Philippines), organize barbecues or simply chitchat. On this note I would like to say: Guys, I love you, your are awesome!

Thus, in the future there will be no community which can reject ICTs. They are to integrated into our daily life to ignore the opportunities arising with their implementation.

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