How about a discussion on some of the interesting, and to an extent unique, concepts that hallmark the world of forum dynamics and populations? This thread is inspired by some interesting thoughts and discussion on Dana's blog....
Here's some thoughts... or initial aspects raised for discussion :
-Forums provide a unique opportunity to level the playing field
Many real life factors largely disappear in a forum situation. Age, looks, prior contacts/experience and real life social set. Gender is oddly persistent.. perhaps it is the ultimate distinguishing factor between people that is the last to disappear. So, with the exception of expressed (doesn't have to be real) gender, it is a level playing field.
-The forum is like a stage, but a safe one, with an unseen audience as well as an active one.
People seem to see the forum life as one that includes the opportunity to play-test personae and actions. Some see it as themselves, but one freed from (some) social conventions. Whether we remain consciously aware of it or not, there is a large "read only" audience, who browse as guests. So, we become players on a stage. The audience is like the Oort cloud, floating way outside and around the solar system, but there nevertheless and in large numbers.
An important aspect is the lack of privacy. While there are PMs, many normally private matters (private if outside of forum life) are there in the public domain. People can watch, almost voyeur, "private" discussions on emotionally charged aspects, in a public domain.. that we pretend is like a closed family group.
Like all social groupings, tribalism is rampant on forums. Cliques (perceived or real, the effect is largely the same), unofficial hierarchies, mating games... it is all there to be seen. In this aspect, the forum life is much like the real life one, but with the exception that this is transitory and not grounded in a real location. The breaking down of worldwide borders (with the exception usually of the prime language - often English) gives a unique opportunity to watch human interaction without the overlays of national identity. Or at least, to see how national identities, upbringings and culture clash, and counter clash in a large scale setting. This aspect is probably my favourite.
-Growth and change
Forum life grows in scale, ebbs and flows... far more rapidly than the real world. People will state that they have (and this is a real quote from a mod at another site) been a moderator for a very very long time at a site - when this in fact is less than a year. Isn't that mind boggling?
Secondly the dynamics, the wars, the relationships flow very rapidly.. becoming prehistory in mere months, and recent but near forgotten history in hours.
For those who have experienced it a long time, there presents recognisable patterns to the ebb and flow, like a sea of humanity caught in the swell.
-Typical personality type and a voice to the unspoken
Forum life tends on the whole to attract the least outspoken real world types. Extraverted sensors are replaced by introverted intuitives. That's odd and a bit scary..... often, people are able to gain a voice that in the real world is drowned by their demeanour and the way they are treated by their outgoing peers. This is a key factor in influencing the relationships on a forum. It colours every aspect of the life, and also.. the cause of its biggest "problem". Those who gain a voice, crave more, and attention seeking and validation run rife... Couple this with growth, when a found voice starts to disappear in a sea of new members, and that voice can turn to ever more extreme calls for attention... a reasonable human being becomes a troll!
Ok.. that's enough for now. Plenty here to discuss, guys, and should be interesting. Here's some more headings we could flesh out..
-Flame wars because there is no "safe haven" or forced "time outs" like real life
-Mods are not trained, or paid, or older, or need qualifications than members
-Communication format is text, which influences communication - different members view it as live vs correspondence