Community carries for me notions of shared purpose, some reason for relating, some suitable level or frequency of contact. We have work communities, geographical communities,communities of interest, and in this instance a community of learning and possibly also a subgroup- the community of practice.
Online is simply a community- a group- that functions in the ether. (or doesn't as the case might be. I have just spent several minutes trying to establish a hyperlink to a 2007 presentation by Stephen Downes around access to personalised technology with no success at all, so here is the URL and you will have to find it for yourselves. http://www.downes.ca/post/42521 )
There is much discussion (often quite heated) around the use of technology to create or inhibit community and I found Michael Wesch's ethnography of YOU TUBE quite compelling. He uses (as you could expect an academic to do) his discipline to interpret the phenomenon of user driven and generated contirubtion, filtering and editing, distribution control. He points out that a significant portion of the material on You Tube is personal and targeted at a domestic or family audience. Issues of authenticity and identity get posed. I was interested in the "looking glass self" a concept from psychology www.allacademic.com/meta/p106150_index.html
being invoked as a way of looking at identity where context that we are used to collapses. I wonder if this both inhibits and encourages a sens of community to those who are comfortable inhabiting the ether.
I guess for me there is an professional imperative to learn to move in this environment as I have to relate at a distance to people I work with and will not meet f2f. chromatic writes in O'Reilly that online communities develop a sense of ownership of their space and develop a shared history and culture. I'm curious to observe this community and myself in it in this regard. (He? also remarks that the first visit needs to be successful to encourage return visits. How many times is the technology not what it promises on a first visit? OH my.)
Stay strong people.