Cooperation and Community an the Internet: Past Issues and Present Perspectives for Theoretical-Empirical Internet Research

Uwe Matzat

Abstract

This paper first summarizes two central debates in the field of social scientific Internet research, namely the debate about the so-called ‘social impact of Internet use’ and the debate about the existence of community on the Internet. Early research discussed whether building up a community on the Internet was possible and what the effects of the use of the Internet were for its user. Recent research on the social consequences of Internet use suggests that ‘the’ Internet should no longer be regarded as a constant that has uniform effects for its users. Rather, the consequences of its use depend on a number of contextual conditions . The paper presents some theories that explain which conditions and features of online groups facilitate the finding of solutions to bilateral or group-level problems of cooperation.

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