All posts by michellezuurmond

Are Virtual Communities Different From Face-to-Face Communities?

A community has always been seen as a group of people that interact with each other, face-to-face. But since the rise of the digital age, a new phenomenon has occurred; digital communities. This blog post tries to give an overview of the original community and the virtual community and how they differ. The blogpost is based on the article “The Experienced “Sense” of a Virtual Community: Characteristics and Processes” by Blanchard and Markus (2002)

Original communities

Original communities are face-to-face communities. There are two types: geographic neighborhoods, so place-based communities and communities of interest. The communities of interest were groups of people that bonded over interests, rather than the geographical location. So, these types of communities were more widespread. Since the limited use of digital devices and or the internet, most of these communities included face-to-face contact and no such thing as chatting. Not all neighborhoods are also communities.

Virtual community

Virtual communities are built around digital devices using the internet. The people within the community are connected mostly digital. In some cases, they know each other in person and also interact face-to-face. But when it comes to the community as a whole, that is only digital. Like in original communities, there is a difference in virtual settlements and virtual communities. Virtual settlements exist when objective measures of computer-mediated interaction exceed some threshold levels. Not all virtual settlements are virtual communities.

Sense of community

So why don’t all neighborhoods count as communities? In order to really be a community, the concept ‘sense of community’ plays an important role. Without this ‘sense of community’, the group of people is just a group of people.

This phenomenon was found in the original communities, but studies showed that this concept was also applicable in the virtual communities.

The definition used in the article is: ” a characteristic of successful communities distinguished by members’ helping behaviors and members’ emotional attachment to the community and other members.” There are some behavioral processes that contribute to the sense of community, namely: exchanging support, creating identities and making identifications and the production of trust. These are quite the same for both type of communities.

Researchers are still in doubt if the sense of community is the reason for communities to exist, or that it is an effect caused by communities. It is mostly presumed that the sense of community is necessary for a community to exist rather than that it is treated as an effect by communities.

The ‘sense of community’ experienced in virtual communities is called ‘sense of virtual community’. When this is experienced, it is called a virtual community. There are also a number of social processes and behaviors that should be present in these communities, namely: providing support, developing and maintaining norms and boundaries, social control and some more.

Sense of community is not forever existing, it can decay or be extinguished. This can be caused by leaders dropping out or if new members with different values join, etcetera.

Active members vs lurkers.

There are different types of members that are involved in most communities. The active members are mostly the leaders of the community, they contribute a lot to the content and interactions within the community. There are also members that are not as involved but still contribute once in a while. The last type are the lurkers. These members are not active, but only present.

In the study, members believed that the newsgroup they were subscribed to, was a community. But their attachment to the community varied with their participation, and their perceived benefits from participating.

Original communities vs Virtual community: what are the differences and what is the same.

The article argues that because the communities have differences in characteristics, the feelings are a little bit different formulated, but are quite similar in meaning. Table 1 gives an overview of the main feelings experiences with sense of community in the two different types of communities.

Table 1: Comparison of SOC and SOVC

Dimensions of SOC Dimensions of SOVC
Feelings of membership Recognition of members
Feelings of influence Exchange of support
Integration and fulfillment of needs Attachment
Shared emotional connection Obligation
Identity (self) and identification (of others)
Relationship with specific members

So, overall the communities have a similar buildup and similar processes. But some differences exist because of using digital devices versus face-to-face interactions.

What are the benefits for companies?

Companies are creating a virtual meeting place or platform for their customers to interact on. The companies try to get (positive) feedback of their consumers. This method is also used to try to motivate people to buy their products or just get the name of the company or product out there. But this group of people that the companies are putting together in this way, does not make a community. In order to have a community, the sense of community is needed. The feelings of belonging and attachment need to develop. The result of the community is that the value is more than all individual people added together.

A community within an organization will among others effect in an increase in job satisfaction and organizational citizenship behavior-loyalty.

This article shows the potential value of creating communities, for commercial reasons as for organization reasons.

From simple diagnosis to knowing all about your body: a trip to the new GP

Stomach pain, headache, or simple pain in the toe; with all sorts of pains, discomforts and more we go to the general practitioners office. The steps are quite common for everyone and most ‘pains’. The GP sometimes asks questions, maybe gives some simple medicine and you have to come back in several weeks. The GP has had a general education on healthcare. This means they know a little bit about everything, but they don’t have a specialty that they know a lot about. This means they can give general diagnosis, but need to send the patient to a specialist when they cannot give an exact diagnosis. Some GPs are sending patients quite easily to a specialist, others are just giving some medication and see if that works in a couple of weeks. The diagnosis has to be made by combining the symptoms that a patient describes with the knowledge of the GP and sometimes a physical examination. But the main focus here is to treat the symptoms, so that the patient is no longer uncomfortable.

The financing for this process comes from the health insurance companies, at least for a large part. The patient has something that is calls ‘own risk’, which is an amount they will have to pay themselves first, before the insurance company will start paying. Healthcare like the GP is always covered by the insurance company, but the care by specialists is not always covered, as also the medication that is not always covered by insurance. So, with minor health issues that a GP can handle on his own, the costs for the patients are very low in general.

This process has worked for years, so why try to find another way to do this? I think we can do better and I got the feeling I’m not alone in this opinion.  The GP giving a general diagnosis does not mean that the cause of the problems is known exactly. So, treatment is solely to get rid of the symptoms. By not treating the cause, the symptoms can return and another visit to the GP and treatment will be necessary. Sometimes the diagnosis is not correct and the real issues are not treated.

How nice would it be to find out exactly what is wrong in your body within 5 minutes? This can be done by using a bodyscan. This method is sometimes used in hospitals, but not as a ‘standard procedure’. Using this technology in a GP office will make the work of the GP a lot easier and the results of a visit a lot better. The GP can find out what the problem is behind the symptoms and treat the real issue, and not only the symptoms.

How does it work then? There are multiple ways and multiple types of bodyscans. One of them works as follows. You put your hands and feed on special metal plates, you get a saturation meter on your finger and two electrodes on your forehead. These are all hooked up to a computer with a special program. This will measure the total body on cellular level. The program will show after the measurement where the deflections are in the body. Combining the outcomes of the bodyscan with the knowledge of the GP will give a more accurate diagnosis and a real cause for the symptoms the patient is experiencing. The GP will have to update their knowledge and get some experience on working with a bodyscan in order to use it correctly in making a diagnosis. All processes in the body are linked to each other, so with a deflection in one process, someone can experience problems within another process. So the knowledge on this links within the body will be crucial for the GP to interpret the bodyscan right.

Aside from making easier and better diagnosis by the GP, the bodyscan can also be used for prevention. It also shows small deflections that do not yet cause problems, but might in the near future. This way the patient can anticipate on this and prevent getting ill. In the Netherlands, prevention is not really the focus. The health insurance companies do not support prevention as much as other countries in Europe. We only go see a GP if we already have symptoms. Aside from being more comfortable for the patient, prevention can also ensure lower costs for the insurance companies. Less treatment with expensive medication will be needed if less people become ill. Next to that, if the diagnosis is that treatment is necessary, the patient can be directed to the right specialists and right treatment. So, no more unnecessary treatment.

So why is it not yet used? It isn’t a new technology, but it is not yet accepted. The GP (and also some other specialists) don’t have the exact knowledge for using a bodyscan. Also, using the bodyscan at the GP’s will change the healthcare because of the difference in diagnosis and the possibility of prevention. I think the pharmaceutical industry and health care industry are not ready for this change.



Corpus Health. (2018). Bodyscan – Corpus Health. [online] Available at: [Accessed 16 Feb. 2018].

Dracup, K. and Bryan-Brown, C. (2018). Doctor of Nursing Practice—MRI or Total Body Scan?. [online] Available at: [Accessed 16 Feb. 2018]. (2018). praktische protocollen voor de huisartsenpraktijk. [online] Available at: [Accessed 17 Feb. 2018].

Toekomstvisie_-_nhg-standpunt_kernwaarden_huisartsgeneeskunde_juli_2011. (2018). 1st ed. [ebook] NHG. Available at: [Accessed 17 Feb. 2018].