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They both grew out of the aim to better understand the interactions people have with each other through technology and the interactions with technology itself. For this reason they are interdisciplinary. Inherently both fields of study are concerned with social dynamics. Technology is embedded in the research, but people are the primary subjects, or purpose of the observation. Despite the inherent focus on ICT and social dynamic in both areas, the two feature a fundamental difference that, although subtle, results in unequal end goals.
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This difference may be best visualized by considering the placement and angle of observation each cast onto their subjects. In terms of content, the two are essentially observing the same phenomenon: humans interacting with one another over ICT. One way to divide the space in which this phenomenon takes place would be into the physical and the virtual. The physical space would be the world the users live in, the air they breathe, the social factors that play into their physical actions, and the social implications their actions account for.
The virtual space would be the world that exists inside the computer, so to speak, the world that is stored on servers in some, often times undisclosed, location. SI places its angle of observation within the physical space. It watches the end user interact with the computer, imagines all the end users communicating with one another and how they comprise a community existing in the physical space that harnesses ICT.
VC, on the other hand, places its angle of observation within the virtual space. It watches the interactions that take place, and the dialogues that exist in the virtual space, which it often times considers to be the community itself. It looks around the virtual space to observe functionality and out into the physical space to take note of motivational factors from the individual.
SI and VC are, in a sense, looking at each other through the window of the computer monitor. Due to this fundamental difference in observation, the two specialize accordingly and learn different things about people and ICT. SI is aimed at determining the effect ICT has on the individual as well as the broader social implications of arranging ICT: from community and organization, to nation, society, and culture.
With this mode of observation comes a strong ethical concern in SI. It is very critical of ICT for the purpose of improving it and ensuring the individual and social-communal health of the end users. VC is aimed at better understanding the inner workings of ICT. The primary goal of many VC studies reviewed was to identify what ICT factors have resulted in a successfully self sustaining virtual community, or have resulted in a failed virtual community. SI and VC compliment and complete one another. Together they provide the tools necessary for determining the design of a successful, sustaining, and socially ethical virtual community.
Both are necessary. If all ICT implementations are concerned only with ethics, they may lack the necessary design considerations to ensure longevity.
Likewise, if all ICT implementations are concerned only with success, they may lack the necessary precautions that ensure human health and avoid manipulation. Rob Kling is considered the father of SI, while VC does not seem to have origins from any one researcher. SI is largely concerned with establishing a critical perspective of social implications ICT results in over various levels of community context. VC is concerned with categorizing community by type, determining motivation and barriers to participation, and establishing design techniques to help ensure a successful and long lasting community.
SI and VC observe the same phenomenon from two different angles and, for this reason, draw unequal conclusions that may be combined into a rich palette of knowledge concerning human interactions over ICT. References Abdul-Rhaman A. Supporting trust in virtual communities.
System Sciences, Journal of Knowledge Management, 7 1 , Blanchard A. Virtual Communities and Social Capital. Social Science Computer Review, 16 3 , Bruckman A.
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In Renninger K. Cambridge University Press. Chiu C. Understanding knowledge sharing in virtual communities: An integration of social capital and social cognitive theories. Decision Support Systems, 42, Day R.
Online Communities and Social Computing
Hagel, J. Net gain: Expanding markets through virtual communities. Boston: Harvard Business School Press. Hall H. International Journal of Information Management, 24 3 , Henri R. Understanding and analyzing activity and learning in Virtual Communities. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 19 4 , Hung, D. Educational Technology, 42, 1, 23— Since the dawn of civilization, new technologies-from the plow to the locomotive to the computer-have transformed human lives.
These changes have often been for the better, but occasionally also for the worse.
Online Communities and Social Computing
No matter what consequence, these changes have always been irrevocable and pervasive. This book is the interplay of the ubiquity of the virtual environment and our evolving interactions in this changed context.
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Virtual Communities & Virtual Reality e-Books - Social Computing - LibGuides at IGI Global
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