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It does this by looking at four primary areas:
* Online identity when the body cannot be seen
* Social order and control in an anarchy without central government
* Structure and dynamics of online communities
* Cybercommunity as a foundation for collective action
The book makes strong cases for a community in cyberspace to be a very real and very valid community. The books authors end up both stating that communities in cyberspace are real communities, but don?t try to push this viewpoint directly on the reader.
Instead this book tries to offer up material for discussion between readers, and is well suited to a classroom textbook focus.
It opens up discussions on issues such as race, gender, power, economics and ethics in cyberspace. For many of these topics, the ability to exist beyond the physical body in a community, radically alters the definition.
One minor irk is it does not consider graphical virtual communities such as SecondLife, ActiveWorlds, or Moove in its coverage. It looks instead at textual worlds: MUDs, MOOs, MUSHes, MUX and forums and usenet. It would be interesting to see how the presence of a visual avatar body alters the community generated.
This is one of those books that, if you have a personal or professional interest in social VR, or online communities in any substantial way, you are going to find both thought provoking and eye opening.
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