Arguably, the most popular kind of online community is the one based on shared interests. From music (last.fm), photography (Flickr) and videos (YouTube), to business (XING) and motherhood (CafeMom).
They are millions and all aim the same thing: to get you to want to ‘join.’
However, what is the case with more extravagant types of communities, which have traditionally served specifically defined audiences? When they decide to move online, how do they attract and sustain the levels of participation?
They ‘open their doors’ to everyone. I have chosen to discuss DeviantArt’s community because I consider it highly problematic in its purposes and users’ profile.
DeviantArt is a community that has been around for 16 years. It is aimed at artists, professionalists or amateurs, who want to share their work online. Nothing wrong with that. I think its users benefit mostly by the visibility they receive. In the art’s world, recognition and wider visibility may grant you success, especially when it only requires a registration and regular uploads.
What is better than being among your own people? What DeviantArt offers is a collective platform for creative individuals worldwide, which are supposed to contribute with constructive critique and original works.
This is where the problem stands.
Scanning through the community’s ‘Etiquette Policy’ page, a certain controversy becomes quite evident. The ‘open doors’ do not seem to be so wide any more.
Although the initially stated aim of the community is to promote the distribution of original art work, regardless of its quality, ‘users are encouraged to submit only the very best of works.’ Otherwise, they might get moved.
Now that seems to me a breach of the ‘artsy freedom.’ The limitations, which DeviantArt seems to impose on its users are questioning the community’s entire purpose.
How do you freely express your creativity within a community, which sets boundaries to it?