One of the hallmarks of social work is its recognition that people grow and mature in a social context. Communities are one of the many social systems that touch people's lives and shape their individual and group identity. A conceptual overview of community is presented. Social systems, ecological systems, and power/conflict are presented as alternative frameworks for understanding how the social interaction between individuals, groups, and social institutions are patterned within the community. Virtual community is reviewed as a recent phenomenon that may have implications for community in modern society.
Calvin L. Streeter
Mary Pender Greene
Sociologists and social workers have long been invested in understanding the role of communities in shaping identities and influencing behavior; however, the study of virtual communities is still new despite the dramatic ways in which online social networks have replaced traditional, geographically bound conceptions of community. The present article briefly reviews some of the early theories of community that have influenced practically all scholars studying computer-mediated virtual communities. The focus then shifts toward an analysis of early, important theorists focusing on virtual communities. The article concludes by examining contemporary research and practices utilizing virtual communities in social work, with a particular emphasis on ways to integrate virtual communities into professional practice.
Hans Meyer and Burton Speakman
It is all too common to think of community journalism as being like all other types of journalism, just on a smaller scale. With the growth of the Internet and virtual community, this form of journalism cannot be distinguished solely by circulation size or geographic delineations. Within the larger journalism research sphere, community journalism remains underrepresented, even though the majority of publications in the United States can be classified as community journals, and throughout the world, small publications, both in print and online are commanding respect. If community media outlets are defined as having a circulation of lower than 50,000, then there are 7,184 community daily or weekly newspapers in the U.S. compared to only 4 publications with circulations of more than 500,000. Worldwide, data cannot be as easily condensed into percentages, but it is reasonable to think the figures are similar. Yet, media research typically focuses on the work and attitudes of the elites, i.e. the larger and best-known publications. Existing research on community journalism has identified key distinctions between community journalism and other types. First, community media focus on information connected to everyday life, and second, its media members tend to develop a closer, more intimate connection to the community they serve. The idea of closeness began with early research into the idea of community itself. Community as a concept revolves around emotional connection and membership. The two necessary elements for community formation are for a group of people to have something in common, and something that differentiates them from other groups. Community media build upon these concepts to give communities a voice. The audience for community news is often connected by an interest in, and emotional attachment to, a geographic area, which represents one form of community or a specific viewpoint, interest, or way of thinking which often represents virtual community. Both groups need journalists, who provide factual information on the community and enable and support strong community ties. Community journalists can also help build place attachment and create third places for community members to congregate and interact socially in.
Much of the existing research on video games seems to stall over the issue of whether or not violence in games is as innocent as is alleged. Scientists are still divided as to whether or not there is a causal link between the behavior of young people and violence in video gaming. Much less discussion is devoted to how cultural and political engagement finds new channels in video games to confront dominant opinions and perceptions in society. However, a more recent body of scientific work considers how the image spaces of video games facilitate new forms of resistance and how this opens up possibilities of social change in our daily lives. In this research, the culture of video gaming is used as a tool for a deeper understanding of resistance in our society. In this context, application of theories about “contagion without contact” can add some new thoughts to the way the virtual world of video games offers possibilities for a politics of resistance in real life. From a historical point of view, the work of the 19th-century French sociologist Gabriel Tarde, one of the first theorists on contagion, can be used to understand more deeply this on-going process by which everyday life recreates itself in its own image, and vice versa. Rather than measuring the amount of violence present in video games (“content analysis”) or identifying causal linkages between media representations of violent imagery and behavior, and subsequent human behavior (“media effect research”), it becomes evident that players of games are not passive recipients, but active interpreters of the reality that arises in and is processed by popular culture.
Gary L. Kreps
Ehealth, also known as E-health, is a relatively new area of health communication inquiry that examines the development, implementation, and application of a broad range of evolving health information technologies (HITs) in modern society to disseminate health information, deliver health care, and promote public health. Ehealth applications include (a) the widespread development of specialized health information websites (often hosted by government agencies, health care systems, corporations, professional societies, health advocacy organizations, and other for-profit and nonprofit organizations); (b) the widespread use of electronic health record (EHR) systems designed to preserve and disseminate health information for health care providers, administrators, and consumers; (c) an array of mobile health education and support applications that have often been developed for use with smartphones; (d) mobile health behavior monitoring, tracking, and alerting equipment (such as wearable devices and systems imbedded in vehicles, clothing, and sporting equipment); (e) interactive telemedicine systems for collecting health data and delivering health care services remotely; (f) interactive adaptive tailored health information systems to support health education, motivate health behaviors, and to inform health decision making; (g) online social support groups for health care consumers, caregivers, and providers; (h) health promotion focused digital games to engage consumers in health education and train both providers and consumers about health promoting procedures; (i) dedicated computer portals that can deliver a variety of digital health information tools and functions to consumers, caregivers, and providers; and (j) interactive and adaptive virtual human agent systems that can gather and provide relevant health information, virtual reality programs that can simulate health environments for training and therapeutic purposes, and an ever-increasing number of digital applications (apps) for addressing a range of health conditions and activities. As information technology evolves, new ehealth applications and programs are being developed and introduced to provide a wide range of powerful ehealth systems to assist with health care and health promotion. Ehealth technologies have been found by many researchers, practitioners, and consumers to hold tremendous promise for enhancing the delivery of health care and promotion of health, ultimately improving health outcomes. Many popularly adopted ehealth applications (such as health websites, health care portals, decision support systems, and wearable health information devices) are transforming the modern health care system by supplementing and extending traditional channels for health communication. The use of new ehealth applications enables the broad dissemination of relevant health information that can be personalized to the unique communication orientations, backgrounds, and information needs of individuals. New ehealth communication channels can provide health care consumers and providers with the relevant health information that they need to make informed health care decisions. These ehealth communication channels can provide this information to people exactly when and where they need it, which is especially important for addressing fast-moving and dangerous health threats. Yet, with all the promise of ehealth communication, there is still a tremendous amount of work to be done to make the wide array of new ehealth applications as useful as possible for promoting health with different audiences. This article describes the current state of knowledge about the development and use of HITs, as well as about strategies for improving ehealth communication applications to enhance the delivery of health care and the promotion of public health.