Felix Sharkov 1, Natalia Kirillina 1
  • 1 Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration (RANEPA), Vernadsky prospect 84 Moscow, Russian Federation 119606

The convergence of real and virtual communities in the digital space: a sociological review

2022, vol. 21, No. 3, pp. 229–249 [issue contents]
The paper represents a critical analysis of the processes caused by the development of virtual communities, and by the transfer of social practices of traditional communities into the space of interactive communication with subsequent transformations in the nature of interaction and the social roles of its participants. The authors introduce and summarize the approaches to communities such as traditional and virtual, and enunciate the distinctive characteristics of virtual and ‘real’ communities formed on the territory of geographically limited objects (villages, cities, countries), in similar conditions (historical, cultural, linguistic) and existing in a common regulatory and legal field. Based on the assumption that virtual communities are usually geographically disparate, implying significant differences in terms of historical memory, culture, native language, traditions, and other things, the authors prove that they remain communities in the sense that they unite groups of people based on common interests, goals, and views, ensuring the interaction of actors and an information exchange between them. However, the taking on the main distinctive characteristics of traditional communities, virtual communities lose some of the properties traditionally inherent in communities, such as a common territory, history, and culture. Virtual communities are defined by the authors as groups of actors interacting in a virtual space (for example, in a social network) beyond geographic and political boundaries and united by common interests or goals. They are characterized by a significant emotional involvement of the participants in the process of network interaction. In present conditions, when almost any created (and previously created) content is being digitized, real and virtual communities converge in the digital space: thus, (1) virtual communities take on some characteristics of traditional ones, and vice versa; and (2) the likelihood of adding or replacing spatial connections in real communities with virtual communications increases, which creates the convergent communities.
Citation: Sharkov F., Kirillina N. (2022) Konvergiruemost' real'nykh i virtual'nykh soobshchestv v tsifrovom prostranstve: sotsiologicheskiy obzor [The convergence of real and virtual communities in the digital space: a sociological review]. The Russian Sociological Review, vol. 21, no 3, pp. 229-249 (in Russian)
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