Drawing upon cognitive science and systems theory, this article examines a number of issues commonly undertaken in theorizing “online communities.” The thesis is that current approaches to online community that focus on speciﬁc online “places,” such as LamdaMOO, may overlook the actual practices engaged in by current internet users, which focus on ad-hoc interactions with a distributed community. Systems theory, as developed by Vilem Flusser, Humberto Maturana and Francisco Varela, is used to examine the relationship between communication and community. Through this examination a deﬁnition of community as a distributed communications systems, in which individuals function as nodes in the overall system, is developed. The conclusion considers the signiﬁcance of this deﬁnition for the evaluation of the internet as a tool for political action and self-realization.
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