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A chatroom ethnography: Evolution of community, norms, nonverbal communication
Unformatted Document Text:  A Chatroom Ethnography 10 place. If virtual communities are to exist, they must actually have ‘space’ in cyberspace. Therefore, the City AOL chatroom studied in this research is an example of a continually maintained location for community members. Finally, there should be a minimum level of sustained membership. Jones (1997) suggests that this is the most unknown element of virtual communities and that knowledge of membership patterns and interactions is still largely unknown. These criteria make a very simple point. For a virtual community to exist, more than two people must be able to interact, they should have an identifiable space available for interactions, and there should be a level of sustained membership (i.e., people coming back to the same location over a period of time). These criteria suggest that a virtual community is a space where participants may forge interpersonal relationships. Parks and Floyd (1996) findings indicated that personal relationships online were common. In fact, two-thirds of participants studied in newsgroups formed personal relationships from CMC exchanges. These findings also indicated that most of the respondents simply viewed CMC as another tool for meeting and interacting with others with similar interests or from similar geographic locations who could move their relationship into a different setting (i.e., FTF)—just as any other ‘normal’ relationship would (Parks & Floyd, 1996). Pratt, et al., (1999) support these conclusions as they argue that people naturally seek social and personal relationships with others and that CMC is a reliable medium in which to forge such relationships. They further argue that relationships formed via CMC are influenced by their origins in a mediated form, but are not solely dependent on the medium. There are challenges associated with a CMC form of relationship building, such as anonymity and a lack of visual stimulus/ attraction; however, these challenges may be easily overcome with the ability to email pictures, set up personal websites, and negotiating interacting

Authors: Diers, Audra.
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A Chatroom Ethnography
10
place. If virtual communities are to exist, they must actually have ‘space’ in cyberspace.
Therefore, the City AOL chatroom studied in this research is an example of a continually
maintained location for community members. Finally, there should be a minimum level of
sustained membership. Jones (1997) suggests that this is the most unknown element of virtual
communities and that knowledge of membership patterns and interactions is still largely
unknown.
These criteria make a very simple point. For a virtual community to exist, more than two
people must be able to interact, they should have an identifiable space available for interactions,
and there should be a level of sustained membership (i.e., people coming back to the same
location over a period of time). These criteria suggest that a virtual community is a space where
participants may forge interpersonal relationships. Parks and Floyd (1996) findings indicated that
personal relationships online were common. In fact, two-thirds of participants studied in
newsgroups formed personal relationships from CMC exchanges. These findings also indicated
that most of the respondents simply viewed CMC as another tool for meeting and interacting
with others with similar interests or from similar geographic locations who could move their
relationship into a different setting (i.e., FTF)—just as any other ‘normal’ relationship would
(Parks & Floyd, 1996). Pratt, et al., (1999) support these conclusions as they argue that people
naturally seek social and personal relationships with others and that CMC is a reliable medium in
which to forge such relationships. They further argue that relationships formed via CMC are
influenced by their origins in a mediated form, but are not solely dependent on the medium.
There are challenges associated with a CMC form of relationship building, such as
anonymity and a lack of visual stimulus/ attraction; however, these challenges may be easily
overcome with the ability to email pictures, set up personal websites, and negotiating interacting


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