- Publisher: Cambridge University Press
- Online publication date: March 2020
- Print publication year: 2020
- Online ISBN: 9781108615211
- DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/9781108615211
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With great potential benefit and possible harm, online social media platforms are transforming human society. Based on decades of deep exploration, distinguished scholar William Sims Bainbridge surveys our complex virtual society, harvesting insights about the future of our real world. Many pilot studies demonstrate valuable research methods and explanatory theories. Tracing membership interlocks between Facebook groups can chart the structure of a social movement, like the one devoted to future spaceflight development. Statistical data on the roles played by people in massively multiplayer online games illustrate the Silicon Law: information technology energizes both freedom and control, in a dynamic balance. The significance of open-source software suggests the traditional distinction between professional and amateur may fade, whereas web-based conflicts between religious and political groups imply that chasms are opening in civil society. This analysis of online space and the divergent communities is long overdue.