Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Tutorial Six: The internet and online communities

The topic that I am going to discuss in this blog post will be around a personal occupation I enjoy: travel. I will look into different online communities that promote, encourage, inspire and discuss travel. The three online communities that I will look at include;
All three of these sites have similar features to them. Here is a brief overview of each.

Travbuddy: On this online community, members and visitors to this site are able to research travel destinations, meet other travellers, and write reviews of places they have been. The reviews of people's travel are in various different forms. Some have uploaded photos, created blogs, or added to forums that are specific to different areas of their travel (eg. accommodation, food, transport). To use this site to post on forums and interact with others it is required to create an account and login each time, however if you are a traveller searching for information it is easy to see people's discussions without creating an account.

Travelerspoint: This online community has a large number of members from every country in the world. It has has blogs and stories that are accessible to members and non-members. There are also photos from different peoples travels around the world. Users are able to ask questions and receive answers from other members in the form of discussion forums. There is also a service that enables members to book accommodation from this site, making travelling plans simple and easy.

TripAdvisor: This is the largest travel site in the world, receiving 40 million visitors a month. On TripAdvisor members are able to book everything from flights to accommodation to enable a carefree trip. There are also blogs and reviews posted, as well as photos and updates such as the best places to visit. When becoming a member of TripAdvisor you are able to subscribe to updates that come directly to you inbox.

All of these sites aim to do the same thing, in that it is providing information for travellers on various destinations that may be a chosen destination for the future, as well as providing a place for family and friends to track your travel and adventures.

This is an example taken from travbuddy, of the type of format for a forum, and the way users interact. This is standard over all three of the online communities.

An ethical issue with these sites may be privacy, however there appears to be privacy policies in place for the members. Yet for non-members they may be privy to information that users are not intending to have publically posted.
Another ethical concern for the sites that offer the purchase of accommodation and travel is accountability for anything going wrong with bookings or payment, whether this is there concern of the business offering the product.

These online communities provide a sense of traditional geographical community in the sense that all the users are able to come to one location being the site and then furthermore with the access of specific forums which provides a community of similar interest and discussion.

An online community that discusses travel in the manner that these do may lack the enthusiasm of a traditional community where it is a face to face discussion where the individual is able to portray their experience through the use of body language, facial expressions and audio expression. However a benefit of having this topic discussed through an online community means there is a larger group of people that are able to contribute to discussion mostly with a larger base of knowledge as well compared to a traditional community setting where there would be a limited amount of knowledge due to a smaller number of people contributing.

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