Electronic Commerce Research

, Volume 6, Issue 1, pp 21–37 | Cite as

Power relations in virtual communities: An ethnographic study

  • Lemai Nguyen
  • Luba Torlina
  • Konrad Peszynski
  • Brian Corbitt


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.


Power relations Virtual community Knowledge management National culture 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. [1]
    Bakhtin, M. (1981). Discourse in the novel. In H.M. (Ed.), The dialogic imagination: Four essays. University of Texas: Austin.Google Scholar
  2. [2]
    Ball, S.J. (1990). Politics and policy making in education—explorations in policy sociology. London, England: Routledge and Kegan Paul.Google Scholar
  3. [3]
    Berners-Lee, T., & Fischetti, M. (1999). Weaving the web: The past, present and future of the world wide web by its inventor. London, England: Orion Business.Google Scholar
  4. [4]
    Bourne, J. (2002). ‘Oh, what will miss say!’: Constructing texts and identities in the discursive process of the classroom writing. Language and Education, 16(4).Google Scholar
  5. [5]
    Clegg, S.R. (1989). Frameworks of power. London, England: Sage Publications Ltd.Google Scholar
  6. [6]
    Corbitt, B., & Thanasankit, T. (2002). Acceptance and leadership-hegemonies of e-commerce policy perspectives. Prometheus, 20(1), 39–57.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. [7]
    Corbitt, B.J. (1995). Homeless students, schools and the policy process: A study of the implementation of the Students at Risk Homelessness Project in Victoria (1989–1991), PhD thesis, Monash University, Australia.Google Scholar
  8. [8]
    Corbitt, B.J. (1997). Reevaluating the micro and macro in the policy process. Journal of Education Policy, 12, 165–176.Google Scholar
  9. [9]
    Donath, J. (2001). Mediated Faces. In Cognitive Technology: Instruments of Mind. Proceedings of the 4th International Conference, CI2001. Warwick, England.Google Scholar
  10. [10]
    Douglas, S. (1998). So who's got ops? Power, control & the undernet virtual community. Availabe on WWW at http://wwwmcc.murdoch.edu.au/ReadingRoom/VID/SD/ (accessed 25 Nov, 2003).
  11. [11]
    Erickson, T., & Kellogg, W.A. (2000). Social translucence: An approach to designing systems that support social processes. ACM Transactions on Computer-Human Interaction, 7(1), 59–83.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. [12]
    Fetterman, D.M. (1989). Ethnography: Step by step. USA: Sage Pubs.Google Scholar
  13. [13]
    Forester, J. (1989). Planning in the face of power. California: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  14. [14]
    Foucault, M. (1971). The order of discourse. Paris: Gallimard.Google Scholar
  15. [15]
    Foucault, M. (1977). The archaeology of knowledge. London, England: Tavistock.Google Scholar
  16. [16]
    Foucault, M. (1978). The history of sexuality volume 1: An introduction (First American Edition ed. vol. 1). New York, USA: Pantheon Books.Google Scholar
  17. [17]
    Foucault, M. (1979). Power, truth, strategy. Sydney, Australia: Feral Publications.Google Scholar
  18. [18]
    Foucault, M. (1982). Michel foucault: beyond structuralism and hermeneutics. In H.L. Dreyfus & P. Rabinow (Eds.), The subject and power (pp. 208–226). Harvester Wheatsheaf: New York, USA.Google Scholar
  19. [19]
    Halford, S., & Leonard, P. (2001). Gender, power and organisations. New York, USA: Palgrave.Google Scholar
  20. [20]
    Hammersley, M., & Atkinson, P. (1983). Ethnography, principles in practice. Great Britain: Routledge.Google Scholar
  21. [21]
    Henriques, J., Holloway, W., Urwin, C., Venn, C., & Walkerdine, V. (1984). Changing the subject. London, England: Methuen.Google Scholar
  22. [22]
    Hiltz, R.S., & Turoff, M. (1993). The networking nation: Human communication via computer. London, England: Addison-Wesley.Google Scholar
  23. [23]
    Howe, J.P. (1989). Micro-implementation of policies for change in secondary schooling—Kurnai college: A case study. Unpub. Ph.D Thesis, Faculty of Education, Monash University, Victoria, Australia.Google Scholar
  24. [24]
    Introna, L.D. (1997). Management, information and power. London, England: Macmillan Press Ltd.Google Scholar
  25. [25]
    Markus, M.L. (1983). Power, politics and MIS implementation. Communications of the ACM, 26(6), 430–444.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. [26]
    McNay, L. (1994). Foucault—A critical introduction. New York, USA: The Continuum Publishing Company.Google Scholar
  27. [27]
    Myers, M.D., & Young, L.W. (1997). Hidden agendas, power and managerial assumptions in information systems development—An ethnographic study. Information, Technology, and People, 10, 224–240.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. [28]
    Peszynski, K.J., & Corbitt, B. (2003). Putting the power in power, politics, and MIS implementation: A reworking of Markus (1983) 20 years on. In Proceedings of the 14th Australian Conference on Information Systems. Perth, Australia.Google Scholar
  29. [29]
    Rheingold, H. (1998). The virtual community. Available on WWW at http://www.rheingold.com/vc/book/ (Accessed 25 Nov 2003).
  30. [30]
    Romm, C.T., & Pliskin, N. (1998). Electronic mail as a coalition-building information technology. ACM Transactions on Information Systems, 16(1), 82–100.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. [31]
    Stake, R. (1975). Evaluating the arts in education: A responsive approach. Ohio, USA: Merrill.Google Scholar
  32. [32]
    Stake, R. (1978). The case study method in social enquiry. Educational Researcher, 8, 5–8.Google Scholar
  33. [33]
    Stake, R. (1985). Case study. In J. Nisbet (Ed.), World yearbook of education. Evans: London, England.Google Scholar
  34. [34]
    Stake, R. (1986). Quieting reform: Social science and social action in an urban youth program. USA: University of Illinois Press.Google Scholar
  35. [35]
    Torlina, L., & Kazakevitch, G. (2003). Web publishing revisited—A case study of literary websites in russia. In Proceedings of the Seventh Pacific Asia Conference on Information Systems. Adelaide, Australia.Google Scholar
  36. [36]
    Turner, V. (1974). Dramas, fields, and metaphors: Symbolic action in human society. London, England: Cornell University Press.Google Scholar
  37. [37]
    Vivian, N., & Sudweeks, F. (2003). Social networks in transnational and virtual communities. Informing Science.Google Scholar
  38. [38]
    Yao, X. (2000). An introduction to confucianism. England: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science + Business Media, LLC 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lemai Nguyen
    • 1
  • Luba Torlina
    • 1
  • Konrad Peszynski
    • 2
  • Brian Corbitt
    • 3
  1. 1.School of Information SystemsDeakin UniversityBurwoodAustralia
  2. 2.GS1 AustraliaMt Waverley
  3. 3.School of Business Information TechnologyRMIT UniversityMelbourneAustralia

Personalised recommendations