The author mentions that this book required two years to develop and that virtual communities have "already started to dominate our daily residential and business activities," an assertion that is supported by the fact that 75% of the 20 most popular Web sites are either social networking sites or have significant social networking features.

As a phenomenon that has exploded in recent years, there are many questions to be answered regarding how this change impacts our culture, and the potential impact it may have going forward. Given this impact, the aim of this book is to investigate "some of the forces shaping the present and future virtual community"


The recent growth in virtual communities, including social networking sites and communities of interest, have attract attention from a variety of disciplines, including social sciences, business management, science, and communications.

At face value, a community is merely a collection of people who interact socially in a common "space," but involves a complex system of social interactions. Recent studies suggest that previous distinctions between traditional and virtual communities are unfounded - the two are not entirely dissimilar, though the technology expands the community's culture in many different ways. So in addition to supporting the established social conventions, virtual communities require careful consideration of the practices that are specific to the new media.

The objective of the book is not only to compile and disseminate knowledge from various disciplines, but also to highlight issues that will precipitate development in the years ahead. The contributors are from a range of disciplines, and the author posits that readers will find certain parts more useful or pertinent to their interest than others.


The book is split into five sections: