This course gives students a background in theory and practice surrounding online interaction environments. For the purpose of this course, a community is defined as a group of people who sustain interaction over time. The group may be held together by a common identity, a collective purpose, or merely by the individual utility gained from the interactions. An online interaction environment is an electronic forum, accessed through computers or other electronic devices, in which community members can conduct some or all of their interactions. The term eCommunity is used as shorthand, both for communities that conduct all of their interactions online and for communities that use online interaction to supplement face-to-face interactions.
Two main threads weave through the course, based on the two main texts. One thread is concerned with the practical issues of design and use of online tools to support communities, and how choices that must be made in design can impact the function and style of the resulting community. The second thread focuses on the sociological theory that provides a frame to better understand communities in general. These theoretical pieces provide a lens for better understanding the implications of choices made on the more practical level.