This past weekend I defended my dissertation on Sense of Community in a Mediate World. It was fun to see friends and classmates from over the years gathered together and hear their input on my findings.
Now my file is in the hands of the university for proof reading, and hopefully there will be a published version to share some time in the near future. In the mean time, here is a brief introduction to my research:
The ways we interact with and through media are constantly evolving. One of the areas this impacts is how we create and maintain communities, which can now be supported by or built through mediated interactions. Past research has concentrated on separating online communities from offline communities, but this research compares sense of community across online communities as well as offline communities. Results show that there are differences in the strength of sense of community between different online communities, and that there are also differences between online and offline communities. This suggests that in future research we should look at community features beyond online/offline interaction. Additionally, participants answered open-ended questions describing sense of community, and analysis indicates that four traditional sense of community factors remain relevant across online and offline communities: Shared Emotional Connection, Influence, Membership, and Integration and Fulfillment of Needs. As media continue to influence our community interactions, and mobile connections weave our online and offline interactions together, the ability to understand sense of community as an element that can transcend mediation will allow us to explore community even as it changes.