Facebook, Ning, Zing, MySpace and many others offering open networks to anyone who wants to join for free. The lure of a large audience and finding affinities to others through groups of interest and the stream of chatter around topical matters draws different demographics of users in.
Individually people look for creative ways to connect and express themselves and many look for the optimum business opportunity to sell something or to find the ideal job. Whatever the appeal may be the diversity of the medium and the creative uses provides the means to satisfy the masses and keep them engaged.
On the other end of the spectrum are strategies targeting “gated communities” for specific demographics of interest aimed at appealing to the desire for controlled audiences screened by moderators who suggest their communities are for the elite. Similar to the old country club rules these gated communities have rather ambiguous screening rules and you have to get permission to become a member of the community. These gated communities charge different fee’s, usually monthly, and provide the medium of networking to accomplish different purposes.
Business Week recently had an article titled “Social Networks for the Elite” which provides commentary on Gated Communities. Tired of the Web masses? Now you can find your own gated communities on the Net—if they’ll let you in
“Are you on the digital A-list? It’s no longer enough to get invited to exclusive conferences or be asked to join professional organizations—many movers and shakers are taking their hobnobbing online, where a new crop of social networks aim to keep out the riff-raff by demanding credentials at the virtual door.”
“As MySpace (NWS), LinkedIn, and Facebook have expanded to people of all ages, classes, and affiliations, there’s a backlash against the open culture of social networking. Walls are going up. The scene is more velvet-roped club, not open-mic night. These three gated sites are among those with tough membership requirements and, presumably, more elite social networking. The articles reviews REUTERS SPACE, INMOBILE.ORG, and DIAMOND LOUNGE as the three examples of gated communities”. read more here…
The Human Influence in a Virtual World
The Open Communities are self governed by the individual members activities. Individuals can reject or accept connections, participate or not in groups and design whatever content they want their profile to be affiliated with. The human factors of community activity is self governing rather than moderated. The influence of one can be accepted or rejected by the influence of many.
Gated Communities are usually governed by one or more moderators. Moderators are engaged to keep their communities focused on its stated objectives and to insure that members meet whatever ambiguous criteria required to become and remain a member of the community. The human factors on community governance is subject to the influence of a few who stand behind rules and politics to justify who gets in and who doesn’t get in.
The virtual world, while seeming open, will always be influenced by human motivations. Human motivations will always be influenced by both selfish and altruistic objectives. Not unlike the physical world our virtual worlds appeal to numerous human needs and motivations are enabled by different mediums, different environments, different structures and an array of models which try and mimic our physical world experiences and models of human interaction. However, the virtual world may change all the older physical world models and experiences given its power of reach and the influence of the many vs. the few.
While both the Gated and Open community models have rationale and appeal to different human motivations, the very dynamics of the virtual world may create unexpected changes to the old models and rules of the physical world. Or will the rules of the physical world follow form in the virtual world?
What say you?