9th Conference European Sociological Association

RN18 Sociology of Communications and Media Research

Virtual Communities as a Technological Corollary of the Global Environment

It has become obvious that starting with the end of the last century, humanity had passed into a new period ? the informational era. The reality of the past centuries can be characterized by ubiquity, by instantaneity, by technological development in the communication field. The former realities have been changed by the ideal of emancipation based on oscillation, on plurality and on the tendency of unification and global interaction. In this perspective, it is likely to state that every act of communication in the contemporary society implies the existence of a worldwide potentiality which may come to surface at any moment.
Moreover, the representation of a global environment has brought to light a multiple system of approaches liable to re-define and re-configure the perception of similarity or of alterity. The world seems wide open as Internet users contact or participate in virtual communities and the growth in membership and usage is expected to continue. The popularity of virtual communities reflects the fact that individuals from different corners of the world are using new technologies, such as the Internet, to discuss shared interests (communities of interest), to develop social relations (communities of relationships) and to explore new identities (communities of fantasy) at a global scale.
At this point, a certain question is liable to become a veritable object of interest: which attributes may account for the approach of a virtual community as a technological corollary of a global community, which are the major premises of an effective virtual community as a particular form of global community.
The central objective of this paper is to propose a typology, a classification system that would be useful to researchers from various disciplinary perspectives as a foundation for theory construction. Moreover, this paper is intended to attach the proper importance to several aspects which define the ?participatory architecture? of the modern society, the strengths and weaknesses of social media in a global environment.