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This collection of thought-provoking essays bridges the gap between textbook and anthology as it explores several of the key issues of online community. The topics for discussion are grouped into four primary areas: determining the concept of identity in an environment where individuals cannot be seen; ordering and controlling a social environment where the tools of control are severely limited compared with those of the physical world; understanding the structure and dynamics of online communities; and using cybercommunity as the basis for collective action.
There's much here to provoke discussion, including the idea that social control in cyberspace is largely in keeping with medieval social norms, and the argument that cyberspace doesn't eliminate the consideration of racial identity but rather alters the way in which racial identify is judged (or misjudged). This is not a collection that hesitates to challenge long-standing assumptions. Editors Smith and Kollock have gathered contributions from scholars holding widely diverse viewpoints as they question both the "legitimacy" of cybercommunity and the methods of its operation. Although the authors do come to a consensus that cyberspace does house true communities, they reveal some surprises in the ways those cybercommunities differ from geographical ones. -- Elizabeth Lewis
'If this volume were a restaurant or a hotel, it would deserve "five stars".' -- Rebecca G ADams, Contemporary Sociology, November 1999 --This text refers to the Paperback edition.