The revolution in telecommunications of the past decade has brought about fundamental changes in the patterns of professional communication. Internet and other electronic networks make it possible for geographically-dispersed individuals to engage in meaningful dialog concerning common problems. These exchanges result in a Global Electronic Community which is unique in human experience. This is a community that is truly self-organizing in that it can take on new forms momentarily. Consequently, it is a dynamic community with continually-changing membership and structure; a society populated with both human and electronic agents. It is, as a result, more complex in the roles its members can assume. The sociology of this community is both novel and open to inquiry in depth -in ways never before imagined by students of human society. This paper explores the sociology of the Internet as a self-organizing system. The Internet is represented as a "electronic landscape" where users and their agents seek collections of relevant information. The "landscape" is defined by the accessibility, connectedness and relevance of data files. As users navigate across this "landscape", they add both connectedness and relevance. This creates collections of useful information and welds users into Electronic Communities held together by shared models and paradigms. The authors present a System Dynamics model of the prototypic Global Electronic Community. Using data drawn from Internet file servers, the authors identify the model and show how its structure and behavior conform to the principles of self-organization. Simulation results are used to outline the sociology of such Communities and the implications for professional contributions to sustainable development.
Proceedings of the 1995 International System Dynamics Conference
Roca, Joan, Ammentorp, William, Morgan, Thomas (1995). The Global Electronic Community: Modeling the Sociology of Self-Organization. Systems Dynamics '95: Proceedings of the 1995 International System Dynamics Conference, Tokyo, Japan. Volume II, 806-812. http://www.systemdynamics.org/conferences/1995/proceed/papersvol2/rocaj806.pdf
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