Online Community Spaces

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Online communities are often built through “online community spaces.” Online

community spaces are symbolically delineated computer mediated spaces such

as email lists, newsgroups, Internet Relay Chat (IRC) channels, graphical

avatar chat spaces (e.g., www.thepalace.com), etc., which enable a wide range

of individuals to attend and contribute to a shared set of computer-mediated

interpersonal interactions, and can therefore be considered relatively transparent

and open. These spaces support online communities by providing a space

in which ties can be formed between people through public shared interactions.

Such spaces are different from personal spaces, such as email inboxes, where

interactions are not publicly shared between members of the online community.

The notion of online spaces, such as email lists, may be confusing to readers

who conceptualize space in terms of day-to-day activities in physical space.

Because cyberspace transcends physical space, it highlights the need for a

different conception of space – one that recognizes the boundaries to computer

mediated actions. Cyberspace, like geographical or physical space, is relational

and needs to be understood as socially constructed (Curry, 1995, 1998).

The utility of online community systems and spaces relates not just to how well

they support different forms of interactive communication, but also how they

help individuals manage the process of enabling communication to take place

at all. This has been described as outeraction (Nardi et al., 2000), which is

defined as “communication processes outside of the direct information exchange

that enables people to reach out and enhance the information exchange”

(p.79). Outeraction includes such tasks as the use of information communicaSupporting

tion to negotiate an individuals availability (e.g., “when can we talk?”) and

media preference (e.g., “can I call you on the phone?”).

Through distinguishing between online community and online community spaces

we are able to understand how the impact of basic design decisions on the

ability of a CMC system to support community. By enabling users to be mobile,

locatable, reachable and capable of rich multimedia communication, the current

wave of handheld communication devices raise the opportunity for new types

of online community spaces that better support proximate communities. This is

because they increase the means for relating online community spaces, associated

messages, and users, to physical location, and thus increase the

possibility of finding and utilizing location-linked affinities. It is from this

perspective that we examine the potential of P3-Systems for supporting

proximate community interactions.