One of the many conversations I’ve had with a few people after the Virtual Worlds 2007 convention was that of a definition of community, and the definition of an online community. At one point when social platforms such as Second Life, There.com, and MySpace were small, the definition of community was that platform. You were a MySpace-er, a Second Life-er, the community was entirely comprised of those within it. Each of those communities have grown at rates where the definition had to change and the original community aspect of these virtual social interactions were redefined. This parallels the development and the growth of the Internet as it is not just a thing but rather a galaxy where all of these universes exist.
Most of us know the history of the net, it started out as an means of communications between several universities across the world. It was a small galaxy, each university was a universe that was comprised of the things that made it different; it’s text, library, literature, students, thinkers, on and on. As the net grew, the galaxy grew, new universes began to develop and in each universe were the things that made it different, at one point it was easy to index the universes, Business, Entertainment, Music. I remember at one point of the net’s development that AOL was considered the Internet. Now many new universes are appearing that are slowly becoming galaxies (Virtual Worlds/MMO’s, Social Media, Media) and it becomes less about being a “MySpace-er” and more about being on Planet MySpace, less about being a Second Life-er, but more about being in Second Life. At one point those were communities, small planets where everyone knew what was going on. Now on Second Life it’s hard to keep up with everything as many communities within this planet exists (such as the Live Musicians, and Fashion Creators).
Online and virtual communities are now very different, they are cities within the platforms they exist in. A really good example of the RedvsBlue community which (in my example) would exist on the Machinima Planet, in the Media Universe. If you think about it a small IRC server on someone’s home server that hosts 10 people could be akin to Rhode Island. It is in these new definitions of communities where the real synergy for Virtual Worlds lie.