Standard Article

Virtual Communities

  1. Larissa S. Rutherford,
  2. Carl R. Hoeninger Jr,
  3. Dawn Wiest

Published Online: 29 FEB 2012

DOI: 10.1002/9780470670590.wbeog942

The Wiley-Blackwell Encyclopedia of Globalization

The Wiley-Blackwell Encyclopedia of Globalization

How to Cite

Rutherford, L. S., Hoeninger Jr, C. R. and Wiest, D. 2012. Virtual Communities. The Wiley-Blackwell Encyclopedia of Globalization. .

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 29 FEB 2012


A virtual community is a technology-mediated social group that is organized around common interests, experiences, or convictions. Like physically based communities, virtual communities are characterized by shared norms, rules, values, beliefs, and expectations that are constructed through interaction and shaped by the larger social environment within which they evolve. Examples of virtual communities include the popular social networking web sites Facebook, Twitter, and MySpace, as well as virtual communities organized around social movements, neighborhoods, religious or ethnic identities, and professions. The virtualization of social ties has raised questions about fundamental aspects of communal life. Whether participation in virtual communities reinforces the hierarchies and inequalities that characterize social relations anchored in real places; increases an individual's sense of well-being; enhances social capital; yields new forms of democratic participation; or promotes shifts in the organization of power and social control are prominent questions in the academic research on the subject.


  • communication networks;
  • community;
  • internet and new media;
  • social movements and social change;
  • stratification and inequality