, Volume 6, Issue 1, pp 21-37

Power relations in virtual communities: An ethnographic study

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Abstract

Peoples' need to socialize with others and greed for power can be best captured with Aristotle's description of human beings as “political animals”/“social animals.” This paper reports on observations of how cyber communities, such as Web-based forums and mailing lists, manifest themselves through social interactions and shared values, membership and friendship, and commitments and loyalty. The paper highlights the importance of power relations in these communities, how they are formed, exercised and evolve. This paper explores power relations as they emerge in two online Vietnamese communities and suggests a new understanding of the formation and evolution of power in virtual societies.

Lemai Nguyen is Senior Lecturer at School of Information Systems, Deakin University, Melbourne. Her primary research interests include creativity, the creative design process, and problem solving activities in Information Systems. Her research leads to a new understanding of the nature of the requirements engineering process as inherently insight-driven and opportunistic, and offers an informed basis from which to approach fostering and supporting creativity in Information Systems development.
Dr. Lemai Nguyen is also interested in understanding the socio-technical process and issues in IT Services and virtual communities.
Lemais research has been published widely at an international level in various journals as well as at conferences in Australia and overseas. She has supervised research students and participated in various conference program committees. She was program co-chair for Australian Workshop on Requirements Engineering (AWRE) in 2002 and 2004, and is a member of the steering committee of AWRE since 2002.
Luba Torlina is Lecturer in the School of Information Systems, Deakin University. Her recent publications, among others, include a number of articles on virtual communities and knowledge management.
Konrad J. Peszynski is the Education Integrator at GS1 Australia. He has an Honours degree in Information Systems from Victoria University in Wellington, New Zealand and a PhD from Deakin University in Melbourne, Australia. Konrad was a lecturer at Deakin University for four years in the School of Information Systems. His interests include culture and information, social aspects of Information Systems, and research methodologies. His PhD focused on the power and politics involved in systems implementation.
Brian Corbitt is currently Professor of Management Information Systems at RMIT University in Australia and was Professor of Management Science at Shinawatra University in Thailand. He has previously been Pro Vice Chancellor (Online Services) at Deakin University, JADE Professor of eCommerce at Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand, and prior to that lectured at the University of Melbourne, where he was also Head of International House, and before that Monash University.
He specializes in IT policy development, analysis and implementation, in Business Modeling and Electronic Commerce trade relationships, and knowledge management. He has published 6 books on eBusiness, eCommerce and eGovernment, and another 4 books. He has also published over 150 refereed scholarly papers, and also numerous government reports to the Governments of Thailand and New Zealand, and some 20 invited papers as a keynote speaker in Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, New Zealand, Japan, Hong Kong, and Australia.