Virtual Reality

, Volume 4, Issue 1, pp 60–73 | Cite as

Constructing social systems through computer-mediated communication



The question of whether computer-mediated communication can support the formation of genuine social systems is addressed in this paper. Our hypothesis, that technology creates new forms of social systems beyond real-life milieus, includes the idea that the technology itself may influence how social binding emerges within online environments. In real-life communities, a precondition for social coherence is the existence of social conventions. By observing interaction in virtual environments, we found the use of a range of social conventions. These results were analysed to determine how the use and emergence of conventions might be influenced by the technology. One factor contributing to the coherence of online social systems, but not the only one, appears to be the degree of social presence mediated by the technology. We suggest that social systems can emerge by computer-mediated communication and are shaped by the media of the specific environment.


Collaborative virtual environments Social conventions Virtual communities Social presence Avatars 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag London Ltd 1999

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.German National Research Centre for Information TechnologySankt AugustinGermany

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