The many faces of online community: Images and imaginings of togetherness on Imgur

Annamari Martinviita

Online community, Virtual community, Online social interaction, Online ethnography, Nexus analysis, Mediated discourse analysis


This article discusses the meaning and function of “community” as a discourse on the image-sharing website Imgur. The analysis shows that the community term has many meanings and serves as a shorthand for a wide variety of social practices, and these meanings are shaped by the experiences of social action leading to the use of the term. Based on ethnographic data, nexus analysis provides an understanding of how the interactions related to community on the site come to take place the way they do. In conceiving of these interactions as mediated discourse, the article provides a fresh approach to the long-established academic discussion on the definition of community, suggesting a new conception of the community term as a boundary object, which takes on various meanings and functions as it is employed in social action. On Imgur, the community term is associated with an imagined connection to similar others, a shared culture, and the commitment to participation required by the intertextuality of the site content and the challenge of learning to read and create the content that is popular on the site.

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