GPs in cyberspace: the sociology of a ‘virtual community'
Article first published online: 28 JUN 2008
The Sociological Review
Volume 47, Issue 4, pages 643–671, November 1999
How to Cite
Fox, N. and Roberts, C. (1999), GPs in cyberspace: the sociology of a ‘virtual community'. The Sociological Review, 47: 643–671. doi: 10.1111/1467-954X.00190
- Issue published online: 28 JUN 2008
- Article first published online: 28 JUN 2008
- Received 29 January 1998 Finally accepted 19 November 1998
It has been argued that on-line networked communication can enable the establishment of ‘virtual communities’. Empirical data from an electronic discussion group for general medical practitioners (GPs) are used to evaluate these claims, and to explore the similarities and discrepancies between on-line and face-to-face interactions.
A distinct social order for this ‘community’ is reported, and the strategies to establish this order in a textual environment are discussed. Participants went through a cycle of integration into membership, and some generated distinctive virtual identities or personae. The notion of a ‘virtual community’ is critically discussed. Participants interacted as if they were part of a community, but it is suggested that the interactions on the list are best understood as extensions of the wider social relations of general practice. The study of virtual communities may thus have relevance for wider issues of social inclusion and citizenship. The paper also includes reflections on ‘cyberethnography’, and suggestions for further research are offered.