Pernicious virtual communities

Identity, polarisation and the Web 2.0

Mitch Parsell*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

18 Citations (Scopus)


The importance of online social spaces is growing. New Web 2.0 resources allow the creation of social networks by any netizen with minimal technical skills. These communities can be extremely narrowly focussed. In this paper, I identify two potential costs of membership in narrowly focussed virtual communities. First, that narrowly focussed communities can polarise attitudes and prejudices leading to increased social cleavage and division. Second, that they can lead sick individuals to revel in their illness, deliberately indulging in their disease and denying the edicts of the medical profession. I specifically examine illness communities centred on the now defunct Multiple Personality Disorder. I highlight these potential problems and point to some technologies that may help combat them.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)41-56
Number of pages16
JournalEthics and Information Technology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2008

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