The Social Life of Avatars

Part of the series Computer Supported Cooperative Work pp 19-39

Social Conventions in Computermediated Communication: A Comparison of Three Online Shared Virtual Environments

  • Barbara Becker
  • , Gloria Mark

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Recent studies of social processes via the Internet have begun to concentrate on the question of whether computer-mediated communication enables people to build up social relations with other persons despite geographical dispersion [1, 2]. It sill seems to be rather unclear whether the Internet can support the development of new forms of social structures, such as virtual communities, which exhibit social binding and social coherence comparable to those in real life. Studies that support the assumption that computer-mediated communication generates new forms of social systems [3, 2] are confronted with a more skeptical assessment, which raises the question of whether the variables used to provide evidence for this are really valid [4]. Critics refer to the absence of commonly-shared life-world perspectives in online communities [3], while more optimistic researchers point out that a common background in online environments is generated by communication [5, 6, 2].