This project was done for the Evolution and Trends of Digital Media course at the University of Washington, during the Winter Quarter of 2009. The course was taught by Kathy Gill and students were instructed to choose an industry, issue, or technology related to digital communication, and examine the past and present of these industries to help form an analysis of what the future holds for these industries.

This research is aimed at determining the future of online communities. With the rise of social network sites (SNS) there has become a distinct difference between websites set up for users to connect with one another based on common interests, and social sites that allow for a more personal network. This first paper will discuss the past of both topical based communities (referred to as “forums” in this project) and social networking sites, and how the members of these communities connected before the rise of such sites. The second paper will examine the present state of these communities and how there seems to be a blending of public discussion websites and SNS’, as well as a bridging of both offline and online communities. The final paper will examine where online communities are headed based on the theories and trends discussed in the first two papers. This project is being conducted to determine the future of online communities, and will draw on sources relevant to forums and SNS’, in particular one such community that has incorporated both. This research will answer an important question: Will internet forums become obsolete or evolve? The future of internet forums quite possibly will involve incorporating many features of social media, which opens the discussion of whether or not forums will exist as being separate from social media. Either way, it is obvious that forums will remain a fixture of online communities in the future; it just needs to be determined in what form this will be in.

The Past of Online Communities
The Present and Future of Online Communities
Annotated Bibliography

Chris Caravello currently is a graduate student at the University of Washington, and is on track to complete his degree in Winter ’09. He began his career as a designer during his time at Florida State University, where he recieved his bachelors degree in graphic design. While living in Tallahassee, he began doing freelance design for musicians who lived in the area. Upon graduating from FSU in 2005, he moved to Los Angeles and took a job as a media designer for the Alsa Corporation. In the Fall of 2007 he moved to Seattle to enter the Masters program. In May 2008 he and his cousin, along with Alex Batess and Johnathan Lucas founded the Tyronehood network, which has grown from an online community set up for fans of the New Orleans music scene to a global social network featuring an online television site and a forum for its members to discuss music, travel, and lifestyles.

Upon finishing his Masters degree, Chris plans on moving back to the Gulf Coast to work as a designer and be closer to his young daughter. He is currently working on a project for the New Orleans based House of Shock.

This reading discusses topics presented in the article “Effects of gratification-opportunities and gratifications-obtained on preferences of instant messaging and e-mail among college students” by Olivine Wai-Yu Lo and Louis Leung.

After reading the article on the reasons young people choose IM over email, I would have to say that I generally agree with what the study shows.  The younger generation prefers IM to email because they like the instant gratification one receives when chatting via IM.  You type something, whomever you are speaking to recieves it right away and responds almost instantly.  I look at this as being practical.  It is the tool that most accurately mimics human conversation.  Especially with features such as chat rooms to allow multiple people to engage in the conversation, as well as most mobile devices allowing IM service.  Its as if friends can have an after class discussion, without being on school grounds, or at the mall, or any other place that young people congregate at to talk amongst themselves.

Another reason that I prefer IM to email, is that there are less barriers in place between messages.  There are no spam filters, no long gaps in pieces of conversation, and if something is not 100% clear in a message, I do not have to write back and then wait for a response for something to be cleared up.  Therefore work situations can go a lot smoother.

The level of interactivity offered is the biggest driving force in preferring IM over email, and the article had this to say on this point:

e-mail lacks the majority of functions that IM can provide, especially those considered as ‘interactivity’ items such as webcam, voice chat, conference chat, on line games, and voice mail. This deficiency can determine the choice of IM and e-mail.

This reiterate the fact that IM mirrors real face to face conversation, something email cannot presently offer effectively.  The sociability of IM is what its users like over email-instant response as well as knowing when their friends are online and free to converse with.  In my opinion and experience, it is this sociability that makes IM so popular.

I thought my discussions all went well, I consider my presentation to be a success due to the feedback I received.  Throughout my presentation, my audience seemed in tune to each point I was trying to make, and were engaging every time I presented a question or theory, which was my main goal.  The biggest challenge was to interpret the work and make it so it was able to be understood by everyone else, no matter what their background was or how familiar they were with the topic.  The feedback I received reflected that this goal was accomplished.  I tried to avoid going more than 3 minutes of straight lecture without asking the audience a question, to keep them involved in the presentation.  All in all, this was a good experience and I really enjoy spending time discussing all of these topics with my classmates, and teaching them what I gathered from my reading also helped me have a better understanding of the material.

1.  How do you believe the Digital Age and Social media has helped the preservation of the Commons?  How might it be hurting it?

2.  What interest groups have you joined or learned about in your time online that are doign the most to combat the problems our planet is facing?  Could these groups exist offline and without the help on the Internet?

3.  How could social networking sites organize members to not only become more aware of these problems facing Earth, but do actual physical work towards the common goal of protecting the Commons?  Which existing social networking site is best suited for this task?

Ruin is the destination toward which all men rush, each pursuing his own best interest in a society that believes in the freedom of the commons. Freedom in a commons brings ruin to all.

Published in 1968 and written by Garret Hardin, Tragedy of the Commons provides a startling look as to how we are killing our own planet with our irresponsible attitude in areas such as population and pollution. The “Commons” that is the focus of the article is any resource or area of the planet available to any member of the population. As our population grows in number, the abuse of the Commons becomes more and more noticeable on the environment. A few centuries ago, if a wasteful act was committed by someone, its impact would be minimal, if at all. Now as animal populations are nearing extinction and pollution ravages our natural habitats, those abuses are magnified. Hardin says that there are no technical solutions to this problem, this problem can only be addressed by the human race as a whole making a decision to determine what is a want, and what is a need, and we will have to come to realize that our planet is a finite resource. As in a growing population WILL eventually exhaust Earths ability to sustain this population. (more…)

Human language has undergone 3 major developments in our existence
-spoken language
-written language
-digital language

Digital Language = Far Reaching
– It is the 3rd great metamorphosis that allows us to communicate with others on a far reaching scale.
– Because of digital language, we are now “one homogeneous mass”, to quote Samuel Bowles.

Digital Language Timeline
-Not all technology is readily adapted…

-Amateur radio does still exist among hobbyist and enthusiast, and this proves very useful when national disasters or wars interrupt traditional means of communication.
-What amateurs today report things that “the media” sometimes misses?

Benkler On Todays Digital Age

“The Internet allows individuals to abandon the idea of the public sphere as primarily constructed of finished statements uttered by a small set of actors socially understood to be “the media” (whether state owned or commercial) and separated from society, and to move toward a set of social practices that see individuals as participating in a debate.”

New Media
As our world becomes computerized, media begins to change.
Lev Manovich’s 5 principles of New Media
1. Numerical Representation
-Media becomes programmable.
2. Modularity
-Fractal Structure
3. Automation
-Media creation, manipulation, access.
4. Variability
-Infinite versions.
5. Transcoding
-Computerization of media

And when you set it all in motion…….

Interactive Media
-“Closed” and “Open” Interactivity
-Following the mental structure of the creator, a predetermined path.
-Clicking a link, that goes to an image, that goes to the next image etc etc.
-True interactivity allows its users to choose their path.
Lake of Death


Manovich, Lev, The Language of New Media (MIT Press, 2001)

Yochai Benkler, The Wealth of Networks: How Social Production Transforms Markets and Freedom (Yale University Press, 2006);

Roger Fidler, Understanding New Media (Pine Forge Press, 1997)

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