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Virtual communities in education: Culture or cultural artifact?

Research output: Contribution in Book/Report/Proceedings - With ISBN/ISSNChapter

Publication date17/06/2014
Host publicationCommunities of Practice: A Special Issue of trends in Communication
PublisherTaylor and Francis
Number of pages12
ISBN (electronic)9781317707967
ISBN (print)9780805896381
<mark>Original language</mark>English


This paper examines critically two contrasting ways of viewing, understanding and studying virtual communities; the notions of the 'Internet as culture' and 'Internet as cultural artifact'. These debates emerge from social phenomena studies into recreational text-based 'virtual communities'. The issues raised in these debates are helpful and equally applicable to the understanding and conceptualization of virtual education. Both notions provide different accounts of people's experiences of the Internet, that explicitly or implicitly, impact on our understanding and implementation ofvirtual education. This paper argues that both perspectives, though apparently opposed, in fact when combined provide us with a much wider picture to appreciate the socially constructed nature of phenomenain virtual communities. It is proposed that a social constructionist perspective provides a theoretical basis for understanding the nature ofvirtual social phenomena in the context of education that is both culture and cultural artifact.