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Sense of Community

In our case studies, we observed that relationships strengthen with social trust, based on shared experience and expression. This trust establishes the foundation for members to explore topics that extend beyond the content world.  In an organic process, topics of discussion may in time expand, allowing members to encounter difference with an increased openness premised on the shared affinities of the community. In many ways, this ability to encounter difference is integral to the ideals of the public sphere as it it encourages debates that in time facilitate closer knitting of the community, through a simultaneous outward expansion of the community network.

In the case of Pricescope, The Around the World Forum emerged on the basis of  a shared interest in diamonds.  Within this forum, debate transitioned from differing jewelry color and design preferences to rather heated exchanges across party lines leading up to the 2008 presidential election. Similarly, the Harry Potter Alliance forums on ning site include detailed and, at times, intensely personal, discussions between people of different religious backgrounds and convictions, and between people of differing opinions on LGBT rights. This node may mark the point when the community becomes a source for news and information for its members as information circulates through the its forums and other networks. Notably, the moment when the community becomes an informational hub may also contribute to future mobilization around shared news and views.

In the case of the Harry Potter Alliance, the foundation in the shared trust provided by the Harry Potter content world and the subsequent move towards topical issue based discussions emerges as a key mobilizing moment. As he reflects upon the growth of the Alliance, Andrew Slack is very clear about how members' shared interest in the content world of Harry Potter is precisely what provides a lens with which the community can view and address disparate topics.
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