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Virtual Online Communities: A Study of Internet Based Community Interactions
Budiman, Adrian M.

2008, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), Ohio University, Mass Communication (Communication).

The aim of this research was to better understand virtual online communities (VOCs), that is, communities that are formed and maintained through the Internet. This research was guided by four research questions: What do participants in VOCs actually seek? How does a participant critically evaluate information produced in VOCs? What differences do VOC members perceive between their online community experiences compared to their experiences in real-life face-to-face communities? In what ways might a VOC shape its members’ views toward political and social change?

The methodology employed was participant observation of 20 informants within their online and offline realms plus in-depth interviews with each informant. Interviews and observations were conducted from 2005 - 2007.


This research identified two different types of VOCs: dependent and self-contained VOCs. Dependent VOCs act as extensions to already existent face-to-face communities while self-sustained VOCs are communities where relationships between members are formed, developed, and nurtured purely through virtual encounters on the Internet based on shared interests. Four functions were identified in this study: information exchange, social support exchange, friendship, recreation. Information exchange is a function where the VOC main purpose was to provide information for members. Social support refers to the degree to which a person’s basic social needs are gratified through interaction with others. Friendship are formed within the VOC not only for social support, but also provide deeper, more meaningful relationships. Recreation within a VOC occurs when the community’s main purpose is purely entertainment.


This study also identified six motivations: accessibility/convenience, escapism, alternate identities, social recognition, voyeurism, written communication as a medium. Three issues in VOCs also emerged in this study: trust, evaluation of online material, and marginalized communities. VOCs exist in a public space and members have a certain degree of anonymity so that trust and ability to evaluate online material was found as a significant issue. Members were hesitant to reveal their true identity unless a bond had been established first. This produced problems in evaluation of content. The issue of marginalized communities was also found where gay members who were ostracized by the general public utilized the VOC as a means for communications.


Drew McDaniel, Ph.D. (Committee Chair)
Elizabeth Collins, Ph.D. (Committee Member)
Robert Stewart, Ph.D. (Committee Member)
Don Flournoy, Ph.D. (Committee Member)
167 p.

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Budiman, A. (2008). Virtual Online Communities: A Study of Internet Based Community Interactions. (Electronic Thesis or Dissertation). Retrieved from https://etd.ohiolink.edu/

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Budiman, Adrian. "Virtual Online Communities: A Study of Internet Based Community Interactions." Electronic Thesis or Dissertation. Ohio University, 2008. OhioLINK Electronic Theses and Dissertations Center. 24 Sep 2017.

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Budiman, Adrian "Virtual Online Communities: A Study of Internet Based Community Interactions." Electronic Thesis or Dissertation. Ohio University, 2008. https://etd.ohiolink.edu/

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