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.