Publicado may 27, 2019


Google Scholar
Search GoogleScholar

Stefano Agostini

Peter Mechant



Online, communities of people aggregate, sharing common interests, ideas, and feelings over the Internet. In this article we focus on the concept of so-called virtual communities (VCs) from a theoretical and empirical perspective. We want to provide a definition from desk research which can be useful on the theoretical and the empirical level. Moreover, we compare it with the definition that emerges from the interviews, which is typical from the qualitative approach perspective. Research questions (RQs) are: (1) How can a VC be defined? and (2) How is a VC defined by its users? We used Porter’s typology of VCs to select four case studies and conducted 49 in-depth interviews with their members. Our study points to the applicability and usefulness of Porter’s typology of virtual communities and suggests a new approach for defining the concept VC.


Virtual communities, Web 2.0, Online communities, Qualitative research, multiple case studycomunidades virtuais, Web 2.0, comunidades online, pesquisa qualitativa, estudo de caso múltiplocomunidades virtuales, Web 2.0, comunidades online, investigación cualitativa, estudio de caso múltiple

Agostini, S. & Mechant, P. (2015). Virtual communities and feelings of influence: Four case studies. Retrieved from

Al-Saggaf, Y. (2004). The effect of online community on offline community in Saudi Arabia. The Electronic Journal of Information Systems in Developing Countries, 16(2), 1-16.

Anderson, B. (1983). Imagined communities: reflections on the origin and spread of nationalism. London: Verso.

Bauman, Z. (2001). The individualized society. Cambridge: Wiley-Blackwell.

Barnes, S. B. (2008). Understanding social media from the media ecological perspective. In E. A. Konijn, S. Utz, M. Tanis & S. B. Barnes (Eds.), Mediated interpersonal communication (pp. 14-33). New York, United States: Routledge.

Bateman-Driskell, R. & Lyon, L. (2002). Are virtual communities true communities? Examining the environments and elements of community. City & Community, 1(4), 373-390.

Baym, M. K. (1998). The emergence of on-line community. In S. Jones (Ed.), CyberSociety 2.0: revisiting computer-mediated communication and community (pp.35-68). London/New Delhi: SAGE.

Beck, U. (1992). Risk society: towards a new modernity. London: SAGE.

Bennato, D. (2007). Individualismo reticolare e socialità virtuale. Cenni sul problema delle relazioni sociali mediate da internet. In V. Giordano & S. Parisi (Eds.), Chattare. Scenari della relazione in rete (pp pp.159-178). Roma, Italy: Meltemi.

Berti, F. (2005). Per una sociologia della comunità. Milano: Franco Angeli.

Boase, J. & Wellman, B. (2006). Personal relationships: On and off the internet. In A. L. Vangelisti & D. Perlman (Eds.), The Cambridge handbook of personal relationships (pp.709-723). Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press.

Boase, J., Horrigan J. B., Wellman, B., & Rainie, L. (2006). The strength of internet ties. Retrieved from

Boccia-Artieri, G. (2004). I media-mondo. Forme e linguaggi dell’esperienza contemporanea. Roma: Meltemi Editore.

Brint, S. (2001). Gemeinschaft Revisited: a critique and reconstruction of the community concept. Sociological theory, 19(1), 1-23.

Bryant, C. G. A. & Jary, D. (Eds.). (1997). Anthony Giddens: critical assessments (Vol. 4). London/New York: Routledge.

Castells, M. (2000). The information age: economy, society and culture. The rise of the network society (Vol.1). Oxford: Blackwell.

Castells, M. (2001). The internet galaxy. Oxford: University Press.

Castells, M. (2008). Afterword. In J. E. Katz (Ed.), Handbook of mobile communication studies (pp. 447-451). Cambridge/Massachusetts: MIT Press.

Catalbianco, C. (2005). Introduzione. In C. Catalbianco & G. Gianturco, Giovani oltre confine (pp.15-40). Rome, Italy: Carocci.

Cohen, A. P. (1985). The symbolic construction of community. Chichester, England: Ellis Horwood.

Colella, F. (2009). Biografie Atipiche. Milano: Guerini Scientifica.

Comunello, F. (2010). Networked Sociability. Milano: Guerini Scientifica.

Corbetta, P. (1999). Metodologie e tecniche della ricerca sociale. Bologna: Il Mulino.

Delanty, G. (2003). Community. London: Routledge.

Fabietti, U. (1999). Comunità “dense”, comunità “immaginate”, comunità “virtuali“. In P. Carbone & P. Ferri (Eds.), Comunità virtuali (pp. 43-60). Milano, Italy: Mimesis Edizioni.

Fabietti, U. (2002). Il traffico delle culture. In U. Fabietti, R. Malighetti & V. Matera, Dal tribale al globale: introduzione all'antropologia (pp. 91-136). Milano, Italy: Bruno Mondadori.

Faraj, S., Jarvenpaa, S. L., & Majchrzak, A. (2011). Knowledge collaboration in online communities. Organization science, 22(5), 1224-1239.

Farci, M., Boccia-Artieri, G., Giglietto, F. & Rossi, L. (2016). Networked intimacy. Intimacy and friendship among Italian Facebook users. Information, Communication & Society 20(5), 784-801.

Fernback, J. (2007). Beyond the diluted community concept: a symbolic interactionist perspective on online social relations. New media & society, 9(1), 49–69.

Frisby, D. & Featherstone, M. (Eds.). (1997). Simmel on Culture. Selected Writings. London/Thousand Oaks/New Delhi: SAGE Publication.

Fuchs, C. (2014). Social media: a critical introduction. Los Angeles/London/New Delhi/Singapore: SAGE.

Gianturco, G. (2005). L’intervista qualitativa. Dal discorso al testo scritto. Milano: Guerini Studio.

Gergen, K. J. (2002). The challenge of absent presence. In J. E. Katz & M. A. Aakhus (Eds.), Perpetual contact: mobile communication, private talk, public performance (pp. 227-241). United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press.

Giordano, V. & Parisi, S. (2007). Premessa. In V. Giordano & S. Parisi (Eds.), Chattare: scenari della relazione in rete (pp. 19-24). Rome, Italy: Meltemi.

Goleman, D. (2006). Inteligencia social: la nueva ciencia de las relaciones humanas. Editorial Kairós.

Granovetter, M. S. (1973). The strength of weak ties. The American Journal of Sociology, 78(6), 1360-1380.

Hampton, K. N. & Wellman, B. (1999). Netville online and offline: observing and surveying a wired suburb. American behavioral scientist, 43(3), 475-492.

Hillery, G. A. Jr. (1955). Definitions of community: areas of agreement. Rural sociology, 20, 111-123.

Hootsuite. (2017). New Research Reveals Global Social Media Use Increased by 21 Percent in 2016. Retrieved from

Howard, P. N. & Jones, S. (2004). Society online. The internet in context. Thousand Oaks: SAGE.

Katz, J. E. (2003). A nation of ghosts? Choreography of mobile communication in public spaces. In K. Nyíri (Ed.), Mobile democracy: essays on society, self and politics (pp. 21-31). Vienna, Austria: Passagen Verlag.

Katz J. E. & Aakhus M. A. (2002). Conclusion: Making meaning of mobiles – a theory of Apparatgeist. In J. E. Katz & M. A. Aakhus (Eds.), Perpetual contact: mobile communication, private talk, public performance (pp.301-318). United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press.

Katz, J. E., Rice, R. E., Acord, S., Dasgupta, K. & David, K. (2004). Personal mediated communication and the concept of community in theory and practice. In P. Kalbfleisch (Ed.), Communication and community, communication yearbook 28 (pp. 315-371). Mahwah, NJ, United States: Erlbaum.

Kavanaugh, A., Carroll, J. M., Rosson, M. B., Zin, T. T., & Reese, D. D. (2005). Community networks: Where offline communities meet online. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 10(4).

Kraut, R., Patterson, M., Lundmark, V., Kiesler, S., Mukophadhyay, T., & Scherlis, W. (1998). Internet paradox: a social technology that reduces social involvement and psychological well-being? American Psychologist, 53(9), 1017-1032.

Kim, S. D. (2002). Korea: personal meanings. In J. Katz & M. Aakhus (Eds.), Perpetual Contact: mobile communication, private talk, public performance (pp. 63-79). United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press.

Jones, Q. (1997). Virtual-communities, virtual settlements & cyber-archaeology: a theoretical outline. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 3(3).

Lazar, J. & Preece, J. (1998). Classification schema for online communities. Retrieved from

Lee, F. S. L., Vogel, D., & Limayem, M. (2003). Virtual community informatics: a review and research agenda. The Journal of Information Technology Theory and Application (JITTA), 5(1), 47-61.

Lévy, P. (1995). Qu’est-ce que le virtuel? Paris: La Découverte.

Lewins, A. & Silver, C. (2007). Using software in qualitative research. London: SAGE Publications.

Longboan, L. C. (2011). E-gorots: exploring indigenous identity in translocal spaces. South East Asia Research, 19(2), 319-341.

Losito, G. (2004). L’intervista nella ricerca sociale. Rome/Bari: Laterza.

McMillan, D. W. & Chavis, D. M. (1986). Sense of community: a definition and theory. Journal of Community Psychology, 14, 6-22.<6::AID-JCOP2290140103>3.0.CO;2-I.

Markus, U. (2002). Characterizing the virtual community (5th edition). SAP Design Guild.

Mascheroni, G. (2007). Le comunità viaggianti. Socialità reticolare e mobile dei viaggiatori indipendenti. Milano: Franco Angeli.

Matzat, U. (2004). Cooperation and community on the internet: past issues and present perspectives for theoretical-empirical internet research. Analyse & Kritik, 26, 63-90.

Merton, R. K. (1946). Mass persuasion. The social psychology of a war bond drive. New York/London: Harper & Brothers Publishers.

Miles, M. & Huberman, A. (1994). Qualitative data analysis: an expanded sourcebook. London: SAGE.

Nancy, J. L. (1991). The inoperative community. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Park, R. (1936). Human Ecology. American Journal of Sociology, 17(1), 1–15.

Park, M. (2017, February). Facebook Reports Fourth Quarter and Full Year 2016 Results. Retrieved from

Parsons, T. (1951). The social system. Glencoe, Scotland: The Free Press.

Patton, M. Q. (2002). Qualitative research & evaluation methods. London/New Delhi/Thousand Oaks: SAGE.

Preece, J. (2001). Designing usability, supporting sociability: questions participants ask about online communities. In M. Hirose (Ed.), Human-computer interaction: INTERACT ’01 (pp. 3-12). United States: IOS Press.

Preece, J. & Maloney-Krichmar, D. (2005). Online communities: design, theory, and practice. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 10(4).

Pentina, I., Prybutok, V. R. & Zhang, X. (2008). The role of virtual communities as shopping reference groups. Journal of Electronic Commerce Research, 9(2), 114-136.

Pizzaleo, A. G. (2002). Internet provider di rapporti sociali. Identità e socializzazione in rete. In M. Morcellini & A. G. Pizzaleo (Eds.), Net sociology. Interazioni tra scienze sociali e internet (pp. 43-56). Milano, Italy: Angelo Guerini e associati.

Ponassi, F. (2004). Comunità virtuali e piccole medie imprese. Forme alternative di presenza in rete. Milano: Franco Angeli.

Postmes, T., Spears, R. & Lea, M. (2000). The formation of groups norms in computer-mediated communication. Human Communication Research, 26(3), 341-371.

Porter, C. E. (2004). A typology of virtual communities: a multi-disciplinary foundation for future research. Journal of Computer Mediated Communication, 10(1).

Ridings, C. M. & Gefen, D. (2004). Virtual community attraction: why people hang out online. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 10(1).

Rheingold, H. (1993). The virtual community. Homesteading on the electronic frontier. Reading, Massachusetts: Addison-Wesley.

Settles, B. & Dow, S. (2013). Let's get together: the formation and success of online creative collaborations. Retrieved from;jsessionid=BEF8DA0FC9E00F2828CB2C5F9A7CD2CF?doi=

Sheller, M. & Urry, J. (2006). The new mobilities paradigm. Environment and Planning A, 38(2), 207 - 226.

Shields, R. (2003). The virtual. London: Routledge.

Simmel, G. (1984). Filosofia del denaro. Torino: Utet.

Simmel, G. (2000). La metropoli e la vita dello spirito. Rome: Armando Editore.

Steinfield, C., Ellison, N. B. & Lampe, C. (2008). Social capital, self-esteem, and use of online social network sites: A longitudinal analysis. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, (29), 434–445.

Steuer, J. (1992). Defining virtual reality: dimensions determining telepresence. Journal of Communication, 42(4), 73-93.

Schütz, A. (1974). La fenomenologia del mondo sociale. Bologna: Il Mulino.

Team TechNadu (2017, March, 11). Mark Zuckerberg, the Co-founder of Facebook finally got His Harvard Degree After 12 Years. Retrieved from

Turner, V. (1995). The ritual process. Structure and anti-structure. U.S.A.: Transaction Publishers.

Turkle, S. (1995). Life on the Screen: identity in the age of the internet. New York: Simon and Schuster Paperbacks.

Uslaner, E. M. (2004). Trust, civic engagement, and the Internet. Political Communication, 21(2), 223-242.

van Dijk, J. A. G. M. (1998). The reality of virtual communities. Trends in Communication, 1(1), 39-63. Retrieved from

van Dijk, J. A. G. M. (1999). The network society. London: Sage.

Virnoche, M. E. & Marx, G. T. (1997). Only connect-E. M. Forster in an age of electronic communication: Computer-mediated association and community networks. Sociological Inquiry, 67(1), 85-100.

Ward, K. (1999). The emergence of the hybrid community: re-thinking the physical/virtual dichotomy. Space and Culture, 2(4-5), 71-86.

Weber, M. (1961). Economia e società. Milano: Edizioni di Comunità.

Wellman, B. (2001). Physical place and cyberplace: the rise of personalized networking. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, (25), 227–252.

Wellman, B. & Giulia, M. (1999). Net surfers don’t ride alone: virtual communities as communities. In B. Wellman (Ed.), Networks in the Global Village: Life in Contemporary Communities (pp. 331-367). Boulder, CO, United States: Westview Press.

Wellman, B., Salaff, J., Dimitrova, D., Garton, L., Gulia, M. & Haythornthwaite, C. (1996). Computer networks as social networks: collaborative work, telework, and virtual community. Annual Review of Sociology, 22(1), 213-238.

Yin, R. K. (2005). Case study research. Design and methods. USA: SAGE Publications.

Zheng, N. (2009). When geography matters in a virtual world: in-game urban planning and its impact on the second life community. In D. Heider (Ed.), Living virtually: researching new worlds (pp. 93-110). New York, United States: Peter Lang.

Zheng, Y., Zhao, K., & Stylianou, A. (2013). The impacts of information quality and system quality on users' continuance intention in information-exchange virtual communities: an empirical investigation. Decision Support Systems, 56, 513-524.
Cómo citar
Agostini, S., & Mechant, P. (2019). Hacia una definición de la Comunidad Virtual. Signo Y Pensamiento, 38(74).