Science & Tech

What constitutes “community” online?

1 min read

Panelists at Harvard Internet Conference explore interactivity

How do we create online communities? Six panelists at the 2000 Harvard Internet and Society Conference struggled with the question. “Real world communities are ever so simple to create,” said Clement Mok, chief communications officer at Sapient. He attributes this to the “infinite bandwidth” of face-to-face contact, something online communities continually try to recreate. “We have a bias towards real time,” he added, pointing to the fervor with which we have embraced real time technologies like the telephone and e-mail. But, he asked, are telephone and e-mail enough to create community? Not according to Chris Edwards, vice president of design at Art Technology Group. Successful online communities, Edwards said, are built on what he calls “affinity architecture,” which embraces qualities such as presence, relevance, activity, response, authorship, and freshness. For instance, a single element of affinity architecture — presence — is invoked by placing the names of present or recent users on every page. “It transforms the page into a place,” said Edwards.