From the Journal of Computer Mediated Communication: A Typology of Virtual Communities: A Multi-Disciplinary Foundation for Future Research
Abstract: Despite the growing popularity of virtual communities, there is no consensus among researchers regarding the appropriate definition or types of virtual communities. In this paper, a virtual community is defined as an aggregation of individuals or business partners who interact around a shared interest, where the interaction is at least partially supported and/or mediated by technology and guided by some protocols or norms. The central objective of developing this typology was to develop a classification system that would be useful to researchers from various disciplinary perspectives such that the classification system might be used as a foundation for theory construction. The proposed typology serves its intended purposes and is evaluated against criteria put forth by Hunt (1991). The proposed typology uses establishment type and relationship orientation as the key categorization variables, reconciling problems posed by other researchers who attempt to use attributes as categorization variables. It is simple, pragmatic for practitioners and useful for researchers seeking to develop an understanding of the virtual community phenomenon.