Virtual Community Paper

Format: Approximately 8-10 pages, Times New Roman, 12-pt font, 1-inch margins (all sides), double-spaced, Word .doc or .docx file only! Citations and works cited page should be in ASA format (see "Files" for details). The 8-10 pages is only including main text of the paper (in other words, the page count does not include works cited or any pictures/tables you decide to use).

Preparation to Write the Paper: Spend 5-6 weeks (approximately 5 hours a week) engaging and initiating with a virtual community. Your goal is to immerse yourself as much as possible in a virtual community (either one that you already have some experience with or a new one) to investigate what being a part of such a community is like. In some ways, this is like doing ethnography and participant observation in a virtual space. Take notes about people's reactions to you and the social interactions that occur in such a community. Reflect on your own experiences, feelings, and interactions. Create social experiments (without harming anyone) or observe other people's interaction in the virtual community. You may even conduct interviews (virtually) with people that you meet. And look for connections from your experience to the readings, lectures, and themes from the course.

Assignment:

Write an 8-10 page paper where you (1) MAKE AN ARGUMENT about the nature of virtual communities and/or social media based on your engagement and ethnographic/participant observation experience with a virtual community that you chose. Please state your argument clearly in the first page (or paragraph) of the paper. Your argument should be specific and detailed, but also somewhat general (speaking to the larger spectrum of social media or virtual communities generally).

For example, "In this paper, through participant observation in the sub-Reddit gaming community, I argue that limitations in interactivity prevent the development of strong ties, but using social media to promote and advertise more interactive and engaging events have the potential to create a vibrant, diverse, and vast blended community." This thesis is very specific in terms of the argument and theories that it will interact with, as well as some of the qualities that it tries to prove. Specifically, the paper tries to prove that 1) interactivity is a crucial component to developing strong ties over social media, 2) but strong ties are possible and supported through social media, and 3) that these ties are diverse and come from specific forms of engagement that social media can support.

The rest of the paper is where you (2) PROVIDE EVIDENCE FROM YOUR PARTICIPANT OBSERVATION/ETHNOGRAPHY as well as (3) UTILIZE AT LEAST TWO READINGS FROM THIS CLASS to make your case. Please provide detailed and specific examples from your participant observation. This means talking about specific interactions and observations. Describe an interaction. What did you post/say? How did they respond? Why does this interaction prove your thesis/argument? How do readings (at least 2), theories, and concepts from this class also support your interpretation of your evidence? In other words, how do the readings prove (or even disprove) your argument? If what you find somehow contradicts the findings in readings, provide more evidence and explanations to show how and suggest why you observed such a difference.

As with the disconnect paper, your interactions with the readings are CRUCIAL and should be the CENTER of the paper. In other words, choose to make an argument that interacts with at least 2 readings in the course. You likely could make MANY arguments with the data you found, but choose something that will allow for deep interaction with the class readings.

If for some reason the readings do not seem to apply well to what you want to write about or what your argument is, please see me in office hours and talk to me as soon as possible. There is room for making an exception to the way readings are used, but for sure, class materials must be a central part of the paper.

The key to this paper is your content and analysis–developing some compelling insight into your experience. Please see rubric and example outline (in "Files" section of the course site) for more details on how to write a successful paper.

Please relate to the two readings and take a look at the example outline. If the readings are not suitable for this paper, please contact me to get new readings. Thank you very much!

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