A/N: Minor essay written for; NET204 – Internet Communications and Social Networks.  Received a Pass.


The Communities and Social Networks Conference 2016 ran from the twenty-fifth of April to the fifteenth of May 2016, producing much online interaction between students.  The conference brought forth many interesting papers and sparked lively debates between students as to their subject and meanings.  This type of interaction between users on the Internet begs a question however; does this conference and communication between students produce a community or a network?  This essay aims to analyse the meanings of both a community and a network online and how this relates to the participation within the conference.  Through this analysis, the essay will prove that the conference was a professional network rather than an online community.

Online, people participate in many groups with similar interests to themselves.  This can be through social networks, forums or individual websites.  These groups are not required to work together to achieve a common goal but rather form due to a mutual love of a particular interest (Zhou, 2011).  Internet users like these groups are online communities.  They organise and assist each other through online communication to further their interests in a particular subject (Chen & Ku, 2013).  Most online communities develop as a way to share information and experiences with other users.  The general attitude and language of users in an online community is often quite casual and will sometimes resemble face-to-face conversation in many ways (Andrews, 2002). In the current Internet age, participation in popular media and hobbies has the potential to form strong communities where users find a place to form online bonds and relationships with others (Jenkins, 2006).  Online communities develop incredible value with continued participation as a collective knowledge base, which can be collated by an individual to further their own personal awareness.

Networking on the Internet is a common form of connecting with others online.  There are quite a few social networking sites dedicated to bringing people together in a way that is similar to a community (Issa & Kommers, 2013).  These types of sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are used for socialising with others online (Issa & Kommers, 2013).  However, these networks can also be used in a professional setting, allowing users to promote a business to other interested users or even promote themselves in a professional environment (Jacobs, 2009).  Many businesses use Facebook and Twitter to gather followers in hopes of gaining a wider customer base (Yegani, 2009).  In terms of individual professional promotion there are sites available like Linkedin which allow users to promote themselves to other professionals in their field (Frauenheim, 2011).  This type of networking is much different to a community; while a community often operates in a more causal setting with a similar language and style, a network like Linkedin operates in a more formal style, using a professional and formal language and approach, not unlike a job interview.  This being said, the Communities and Social Networks Conference 2016 was definitely a more formal setting, therefore considered a network.

The conference was held over a period of three weeks and produced thirty-five papers and over five hundred comments (Communities and Social Networks Conference, 2016).  There were a total of five streams each dealing with a particular part of internet communities and social networks (Communities and Social Networks Conference, 2016).  Comments from students and professionals ranged from a few sentences to over five hundred words (Communities and Social Networks Conference, 2016).  As this was an assessed piece of university work, the majority of interactions between students were delivered in a formal and professional tone.  Students, when referring to particular academic works would reference these works accordingly, as one might do in an essay or report scenario (Communities and Social Networks Conference, 2016).  Comments made on the papers were encouraging and often either asked further questions for the author to answer or related the author’s paper to similar papers or professional academic works (Communities and Social Networks Conference, 2016).  Reponses from the authors were parallel offering further information using links, references to academic works, and personal opinion (Communities and Social Networks Conference, 2016).

The interactions between students and other participants in the conference were of a professional nature and tone.  These types of interactions online are used for more formal networking and sometimes achieving a common goal, in this case, the completion of a requirement of the current course (Jacobs, 2009).  Describing networking is similar to considering a spider’s web, it begins in the centre with one action or request and gradually branches out further and further until it is an intricate design of nodes within the web, or in this case contacts within a professional network.  These groups or networks sometimes work together to achieve a common goal, such as university students completing a group assignment, or a series of employees working on a project from different geographical locations, or a user furthering their professional contacts through a website such as Linkedin (Jacobs, 2009; Yegani, 2011).

The online world is an incredible place which allows users to connect with others both on a personal and professional level.  Online communities are a casual environment where users can establish themselves in a place with other like minded people interested in similar subjects.  Online networks can be seen as both a causal and professional setting, however for the scope of this essay an online network was used in a professional sense.  This type of network is used for establishing a common goal or furthering one’s career through contacts on the Internet.  This essay aimed to prove that the Communities and Social Networks Conference 2016 was, in fact a professional network rather than an online community.  Through establishing both what an online community and an online network mean, in addition to analysing the conference, this essay has shown that through a network students worked together to achieve a common goal in professional online network environment.


References

Andrews, D.C. (2002) Audience Specific Online Community Design. Association for Computing Machinery. Communications of the ACM, 45(4), 64-68.

Chen, C.D. & Ku, E.C.S. (2013). Bridging Indistinct Relationships and Online Loyalty: Evidence from Online Interest-Based Communities. Online Information Review, 37(5), 731-751.

Communities and Social Networks Conference. (2016). Communities and Social Networks Conference. Retrieved from http://networkconference.netstudies.org/2016OUA/

Frauenheim, E. (2011). Linkedin. Workforce Management, 90(2), 21-22.

Issa, T. & Kommers, P. (2013). Social Networking for Web-Based Communities. International Journal of Web-Based Communities, 9(1), 5-24.

Jacobs, G. (2009). Online Professional Networking. Contract Management, 49(8), pp. 10, 12, 14.

Jenkins, H. (2006). Fans, Bloggers, and Gamers : Exploring Participatory Culture.  New York: New York University Press.

Yegani, M. (2009). Online Professional Networking: An Effective Interactive Tool. Poultry Science, 88(9), 2014-2015.

Zhou, T. (2011). Understanding Online Community User Participation: A Social Influence Perspective. Internet Research, 21(1), 67-81.

Creative Commons License
The Internet’s a Spider Web: Professional Networking Online by Sheridan Brownlie is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

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