A remarkably rich body of literature exists on the subject of virtual community. The scholarly debate is, however, still dominated by descriptive questions of whether communities can exist online and whether specific online venues qualify as communities. In ‘Nowhere I Could Talk Like That’, Willem de Koster moves beyond these prevailing dichotomous questions by studying how different types of virtual togetherness can be understood in relation to offline social life. Based on a qualitative analysis of the different meanings three online forums have for their participants, a typology of virtual togetherness is constructed. It is found that members have respectively formed a refuge, a springboard, a social movement, and a neo-tribe online, each with a specific relationship with offline social life. This not only suggests that the common research practice in the online community debate should be thoroughly reconsidered, but also informs debates on the fleetingness of online interactions, ‘cyber-balkanization’, and the online-offline distinction.

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Erasmus University Rotterdam
D. Houtman (Dick)
Erasmus School of Social and Behavioural Sciences

de Koster, W. (2010, December 2). 'Nowhere I could talk like that'. Retrieved from http://hdl.handle.net/1765/78473