A new me, myself and my five other online Identities in an Online Community

UPDATE: This blog post was updated on the 21st of April, to reflect feedback and as I felt that the post lacked a couple of things. I feel I have clarified and addressed some of the confusion about my definitions of Online communities and Networked Publics. I then after reflecting further, re uploaded this as a new post to reflect the amount of changes within this post.

An online community is defined by Jenny Preece in her book, ‘Online Communities’ as “People, who interact socially as they strive to satisfy their own needs or perform special roles, such as leading or moderating. A shared purpose, such as an interest, need, information exchange, or service that provides a reason for the community.” This statement I feel reflects my personal view of what an online community represents. The only part that this statement I feel that it did not comment on is the online element. I feel this is incredibly important as without it, the statement could be applied to any physical club or community.

To qualify as an online community, according to Helen Baxter the community must have a clearly defined purpose, a membership process, terms of use and community rules, members generated content and people.  I feel this accurately describes spaces within Gaming clients such as Blizzard.Net and LOL. I believe that these gaming communities meet all the requirements previously mentioned.

These communities have all the required elements such as a clearly defined purpose, a membership process, terms of use and community rules, members generated content and people. The communities are gatherings of people who play the game and are there to either discuss the game or play it. The membership process is that you have to set up an account and choose a name and avatar which represents you. The terms of use and community rules are set by the game and can be found here for League of Legends and here for Blizzard. The content which is generated by people in the communities range from everything such as Fanart, Cosplay, game replays or videos of matches which have been recorded; even funny conversation involving the game. The more common generated content is usually short replays of specific moments which have been compiled into GIF format or small comics. These can be often found posted on the leagues client in the front page.

Another element which I feel is important when discussing online community, is “Networked Publics”, this is define by Danah Boyd, as “publics that are restructured by networked technologies.” Under this category she defines this area with two qualifying characteristics being “(1) the space constructed through networked technologies and (2) the imagined collective that emerges as a result of the intersection of people, technology, and practice.” She also explains that, “Networked publics serve many of the same functions as other types of publics – they allow people to gather for social, cultural, and civic purposes and they help people connect with a world beyond their close friends and family”.

Both of these statements support my own knowledge and experience in this world of online communities and Networked Publics; this is why I have chosen them to represent and explain my personal views. The conditions mentioned by  Helen Baxter are able to be used when discussing online communities in the examples of DeviantArt, Imgur, Reddit and Instagram. The examples listed are driven by member’s content and as such they are their strongest when they are considered popular and being widely used by people. Without this regular updating content, these communities would be useless and would quickly become forgotten. This connects to one of the qualifying elements mentioned by Helen Baxter with the member’s generated content being one of the most important elements in an online community.

ClusterMap

“Friend Network” by Wolfram Alpha LLC—A Wolfram Research Company from WolframAlpha. BY-NC-SA.

Cluster Map for my Facebook data created with Wolfram and Alpha

In my online usage, while I do not have a strong professional online identity, I have a created an identity by being a part of multiple online communities in the gaming world. I am a social gamer who has created an identity in this online community and is considered an ‘Passive lurker’. A Passive Lurker is defined by Elliot Volkman as “Members who return to a community to consume the content, discussions, and advice but do not contribute or share any of it.”  I do not often post my own content but I often read posts and will comment if I feel I can add to the conversation. The communities I participate in, are the Steam, Battle.Net/Blizzard, League of Legends and Smite communities. I prefer often to have an anonymous identity in these games with only my basic name displayed on my profile. All the before mentioned communities have an in built chat feature within the games, which allows for socialisation in and out of games. This element of chat is able to be connected to the 2nd qualifying factor mentioned by Danah Boyd. As these communities provide a way for myself to communicate with multiple friends without physical being there with them.

LOLMy League of Legends client displaying the amount of information a person can see and how I am able to communicate with friends in this community.LOL2

I also use Facebook, Skype and Tumblr on a fairly regular bases with my Google+ usage slowly increasing with this unit. Within these sites I generally maintain a slightly less anonymous profile but I still tend to be fairly reluctant in providing information about myself. I am a part of a couple of large Facebook groups for my various interests. Within these communities I tend to be an Active participant, with updating content to them on a semi regular bases. I usually post photos or statuses about myself in relation to the community, much more regularly then to my own public profile. Many of these groups have a wonderful sense of community and often members will support each other heavily while being a source of comfort for the participants. I think this is the main reason why  I post more content to these groups, because they provide a better source of  support and there is less judgement. Within these sites, I find that the users and community are more supportive and friendly; while in my experience, the gaming community is harsher due to the sense of anonymous and competitiveness that is seen in this area. I am more comfortable within the Facebook and skype community due to the fact that I am often able to see or hear the person I am talking to; through photos, videos and calls. I prefer this element of face to face interaction rather than trying to communicate through a character or avatar.

  vs

Warring Kingdoms Katarina Render League of Legends by RikkuTenjouSs, CC BY

Both of these images represent a part of me.  The first one is the character that I play the most of in League of Legends. The other is a photo that a friend took of me, while I was on exchange.

Overall I have enjoyed my time in these communities and I look forward to engaging further while learning more about this area. What does everyone else think? Do people agree with my views? Why? Or why not? I am looking forward to reading other people’s posts on the matter.

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