Frances Bell

home at last – for all the mes


Framework for Virtual Communities

Framework for Virtual Communities

after Steinmueller

This is a very hastily written blog post to contribute to discussion about real or imagined community at Heli’s blog.

The diagram above is my visualisation of Steinmueller’s view of virtual community.  If you want to find out more about my thoughts in 2003 please click.

I’d just like to pick out a few points:

In the diagram, you can see the 3Ps that are common to most early 21st century views of online or virtual communities – People (membership), Policies (governance), and Purpose (individual and/or group attribute).

The aspect (that is Steinmueller’s contribution) that seems particularly relevant to me is Sustainability.  Steinmueller characterised this as something that is lost

either when the costs of participation exceed the willingness to participate

or there is a coordination failure .

The coordination failure could be that horrible experience when you log in one morning to find that the space no longer exists, or something else goes wrong.

Anyway, this is for you – take it or leave it.


francesbell • February 12, 2014

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  1. Karen Young February 12, 2014 - 7:14 pm Reply

    Thanks for sharing this Frances. I read your and Heli’s thoughts with interest about our real or imagined community. Sometimes I wonder whether we just haven’t got the right word for online communities, since they ebb and flow so quickly. Community is a binding word the way I see it, associated (as Dave points out, often with an aspect of physical geography) and the ties are within this, and many online communities, are very loose. I agree that sustainability is the big issue for online communities and found it interesting that many of us who participated in ETMOOC have remained in contact.

    • Frances Bell February 12, 2014 - 8:07 pm Reply

      I agree Karen. I am doubtful that #rhizo14 is a community by various definitions but then we have to think what does ‘the community is the curriculum’ mean? We certainly have little physical geography in common.However, I do think that the issue of sustainability might help shed some light on why some people get more involved or fade away from the ‘thing’ that is rhizo14 – if that makes any sense. Some of us do have ties that bind us from previous associations/ MOOCs/ whatever and that’s important but sometimes not obvious to others.

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