What Defines a Community?

Scholars have argued for a long time about whether online groups can be considered communities. Of course, there are many different types of online groups, some of whom consider themselves a community and some who do not. Some people attribute Internet-based interaction to breaking up local communites. But as Wellman (1996) points out, for many people in the United States, people’s strongest social ties have not been local for quite some time. He argues that industrial forces have been changing the composition of our social networks over the course of the last hundred years–long before the Internet appeared on the scene.

In conducting online research among video sharing site participants, I’ve noticed that YouTube is vast with people relating positive and negative experiences they have had on the site. But what is particularly interesting to me is that in discussing whether or not YouTube feels like a community to them, the interviews revealed what the individuals defined as the characteristics of community. To me this is an important part of the video. Many different defintions of community are mentioned in this video both in text and images. Can you identify them? Which definitions seem most persuasive to you?

This footage was taken at the SouthTube meeting in Georgia on September 22-23, 2007.

Please note that this is a research site and that comments posted to the site may be used in research. For more information about the study and how posted comments are used in research please see:




3 Responses to “What Defines a Community?”

  1. October 8, 2007 at 12:13 pm

    Interesting nobody is commenting here.
    Are you getting more clicks an this site since you were featured?
    In terms of Appadurai youtube would be a mediascape, right?
    Seems a very closed one to me. E.g. The connection between these
    people at southtube is a local one and there are things they share,
    like language etc. So community for that part would be mere communication
    about thing they share as something else.
    regards, Christian

  2. 2 anthrovlog
    November 5, 2007 at 5:57 am

    It is interesting how this video has 28 views here and as of today more than 730K views on YouTube. It was of course featured on the main page and in Italy. I think it would be interesting to explore YouTube’s role in perhaps a larger mediascape of different video sharing and/or social network sites. Also it depends on what you mean when you say that the connection between people at SouthTube is a “local” one. People traveled from all over the Southern United states, as well as across the country and beyond to attend. The concept of the local here is relative. I do see many participants talking about YouTube as if it were a community of affinity, as you suggest. But as people form friendships and become closer, to what extent will the video be the primary driver for those groups?

    Thanks for stopping by!


  3. 3 Pablo2garcia
    November 17, 2007 at 2:05 pm

    You do well in asking. And thanks for making the video. It looks as good real evidence, might be archaeology material some day just as we collect carved combs of some villagers, since it is a video in itself. You do your house with the stones of your hill. Very nice and straight forward sayings raptured.

    I will add that for this people the medium is already something that gives them an identity with substance, because only some types do videos, and then they interact with kin types more, and also, since there is really not that much outside the very internet experience for most, and most of all it is not needed to maintain the existing internet interactions, then I’d say it will be used also in some part as a world in its own, were that “ideal communication” is also mixing in the flow a lot of reality doing.

    Also I believe that for all, typically more for the more “tourists” or “surfers”, it is a warp community that functions to satisfy communicative drives, and delivers, but to be of use most still to the non internet life. People get a grasp of the people they non-internetly live with, and for the most part can’t (or just do no) develop main-life ties using internet interaction.

    So the most similar to that cosmic communication of beings many religions touch and most have had while growing up their minds, we have ever come across. That place were you could learn things without effort and long time (still to polish!), that place were you could jump into some other person you had just read about and seen photos of, or high jack that platonic-love’s head and see what was behind the smile, or learn that sought secret, or shout to all minds of your kin, or even just plainly bash to all.

    I also believe that for one side it is incredibly potent and does some things that are hard to imagine to happen with any other tools… and that it is also terribly lying in that we generally come with the hope of actually meeting people, but we just meet their greetings and witticisms, but we keep not disposing of them to a reasonable extent. Both effects could still give a positive sum, who knows, probably, since it is being done!

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