Virtual Communities and social network

I am just entering the field of research concerning virtual communities (gathering of geographically dispersed people with common interests and activities) and other social considerations. My interest towards this area is quite old : from minitel stuff at the end of the 80’s till the discover of the www in 1995. At that time I haven’t thought I would study socio-cognitive things about those topics !

Howard Rheingold’s book, The Virtual Communitiesis available on-line. Even though it’s a bit old (1993), it’s a good starting point. The problem with that vision (and often with Rheingold’s book) is that there is no discussion about people who don’t (and NEVER) use this kind of technology. I think the guy is far too optimistic…

However, I still believe it’s an interesting field of research I would like to step into 🙂 All those technological widgets needs an evaluation (from a social and cognitive point of view).

Amy Jo Kim’s book “Community building on the web” seems to be a must-read for people who looks for on-line community builders. It also appears that she is writing a similar book concerning social architectures for networked video games.

Rheingold’s last book – Smart Mobs focuses on mobile collaborative “clique”. He defines a smart mob as “people who are able to act in concert even if they don’t know each other. The people who make up smart mobs cooperate in ways never before possible because they carry devices that possess both communication and computing capabilities”

The book covers his experience watching smart mobs in Tokyo or Stockholm as well as the threats of location-based technologies (is it Foucault’s always-on panotpicon ? or just a cooperation amplifier ?). The link he made to Foucault’s Surveiller et Punir is very relevant. I gotta use that kind of stuff too for the limit of my phD. It’s cleat that my work needs contextualising, for instance literature about social interaction and awareness (e.g. Erving Goffman, Deirdre Boden, Christian Heath)

Another corollary area is also Social-Network Mapping Tools : all those visualizing stuff seems attracting. I should ask Yvan to show me his work as well as what Patrick did for his phD.