Cyberculture authority Howard Rheingold was the first to write about online communities in this style that is part-travelogue and part-anthropological guide. This groundbreaking classic explores the entire virtual community, beginning with a selective but probing look at the author's original online home, The Well. Rheingold relates plenty of anecdotes that demonstrate the upsides of online life, such as how he was able to get information on removing a tick from his child before his doctor could respond to his phone call. But the bulk of the material relates to how individuals interact online much as they do in a face-to-face community. Rheingold speaks to how both friendships and enmities are formed online and how people come together to support each other through misfortune. He gives the example of how computer-moderated communication enabled members of one Well community to send vital medical aid to a friend hospitalized halfway around the world. Rheingold goes on to show how communities can form by various electronic communication methods, using the conferencing system of The Well as one example. He also examines how people interact through mailing lists, live chat, and the fantasy cyberenvironments of online role-playing games. In the process, he questions what kind of relationships can really be formed in a medium where people can change their apparent identity at will. This book questions whether a distinction between "virtual" communities and "real-life" communities is entirely valid. The Virtual Community argues that real relationships happen and real communities develop when people communicate upon virtual common ground. Rheingold also shares his far-reaching knowledge of how technology effects our social constructs. If you are involved in an online community, here is your cultural heritage.