, Volume 196, Issue 1, pp 377–397 | Cite as

Online communities as virtual cognitive niches

  • Selene ArfiniEmail author
  • Tommaso Bertolotti
  • Lorenzo Magnani


In this paper we aim at discussing cognitive and epistemic features of online communities, by the use of cognitive niche constructions theories, presenting them as virtual cognitive niches. Virtual cognitive niches can be considered as digitally-encoded collaborative distributions of diverse types of information into an environment performed by agents to aid thinking and reasoning about some target domain. Discussing this definition, we will also consider how online communities, as networks displaying a social bias, can both foster civic awareness and promote problematic group-led behaviors in the virtually aggregated crowds. To support this affirmation, we will take into account the use of online communication networks during crises and we will argue that it can lead to ethically dubious consequences.


Cognitive niches Affordance theory Online communities Imagined communities 



We are grateful to Matteo Colombo, Thomas Boyer-Kassem and James Grayot, for constructive criticisms and valuable comments on the earlier draft, and to audiences at Tilburg Research Center for Logic, Ethics, and Philosophy of Science for further feedbacks. We also want to express our gratitude towards the two anonymous referees, for their crucial remarks and knowledgeable suggestions.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Philosophy, Education and Economical-Quantitative Sciences and Computational Philosophy LaboratoryUniversity of Chieti and PescaraChietiItaly
  2. 2.Department of Humanities and Computational Philosophy LaboratoryUniversity of PaviaPaviaItaly

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