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Department of Geography

Staff Profile

Publication details for Professor Mike Crang

Crang, M. & Haji Bin Mohamed, Siti Researching virtual communities. In: Clifford, N., Cope, M., French, S. & Gillespie, T. Key Methods in Geography. London: Sage; 2016:270-284.

Author(s) from Durham

Abstract

This chapter asks what is distinctive about researching virtual communities. In so doing it troubles both those terms – arguing that ‘virtual’ may be an unhelpful descriptor, though it may throw into relief some equally problematic associations with the word ‘community’. In the mid to late 90s, researchers began to ask if a ‘virtual community’ could exist and if so what it might look like. This chapter highlights some of the baleful legacies left by those debates in how they defined virtual and community. Instead, we look at the actuality of virtual lives now, as we move from analyses of early adopters to mainstream formations. In so doing we track through some of the experiments in practice and analysis in the literature. We do so for four reasons: first to show the development of various concerns; second, to show the changing media and practices involved, and thus third, to show how we present inevitably a snapshot in a fast moving environment; fourth, then to suggest how some issues persist or mutate although the specific media may come and go. We do this in the context of a research issue that has moved from an esoteric interest to a mainstream phenomenon. We thus ask what new tactics or devices are called for to study ‘virtual communities’, how virtual communities change how we study social life generally and what old techniques are or can be modified to provide new insights.
The chapter is structured into the following sections:
• Thinking communities? Feeling, sentiment and social ties in a digital age.
• Playing a Role: Virtual Game Worlds and Worlding Virtual Games
• Mediated Social Worlds
• Hybridised spaces of augmented communities
• Conclusions