One of the questions on my mind lately is how do you classify deviantART? Well...let's start with some facts we can all agree on. dA has over 20 million registered members and over 60 million monthly unique users - amazing! The content on the site is artistic in nature: digital art, photography, painting, anime, writing of all kinds and many more genres. deviantART also has some of the most passionate members of any social network/community that I've ever seen. dA is International - people from all over the globe come here to be entertained, interact with one another, meet new people, draw on MURO, submit their work and to comment and critique others. But there's more: artists can get discovered, or even make money from selling their digital art online through "premium content", or physically through our prints program. With all of these things going on, is it fair to put dA into a category? Can't we just say that dA is dA and leave it at that?? Well, I suppose we could but human nature has an unmistakable need to want to fit things into neat categories and duly classify them. So let's do that!
But before we get started, let's start with the following definitions:
A social networking service is an online service, platform, or site that focuses on facilitating the building of social networks or social relations among people who, for example, share interests, activities, backgrounds, or real-life connections. A social network service consists of a representation of each user (often a profile), his/her social links, and a variety of additional services. Most social network services are web-based and provide means for users to interact over the Internet, such as e-mail and instant messaging. Online community services are sometimes considered as a social network service, though in a broader sense, social network service usually means an individual-centered service whereas online community services are group-centered. Social networking sites allow users to share ideas, activities, events, and interests within their individual networks.
An online community is a virtual community that exists online and whose members enable its existence through taking part in membership ritual. An online community can take the form of an information system where anyone can post content, such as a Bulletin board system or one where only a restricted number of people can initiate posts, such as Weblogs. Online communities have also become a supplemental form of communication between people who know each other primarily in real life. Many means are used in social software separately or in combination, including text-based chat rooms and forums that use voice, video text or avatars. Significant socio-technical change may have resulted from the proliferation of such Internet-based social networks.
Wow! This is hard...there are elements of both at play within dA...let's take stock:
Based on the above definition of a Social Network dA has the following components:
-Building of social relationships between those that share common interests, activities and backgrounds
-Individual representation by way of a personalized profile
-Individual centered (and group centered)
Based on the above definition of Community dA has the following components:
-Membership based (although not obligatory)
-Anyone can post content
-Communication between people that know each other in real life (devmeets etc..)
-Chat rooms, Forums, Groups
-Use of avatars
Interesting...how do you decide? It seems as though dA has components of both an online social network and an online community. So which is it? Well, I would argue two things: a) deviantART is a vertical social network. This essentially means that dA is a social network that specifically caters to artists and art enthusiasts. b) dA is a very unique web property - one which encapsulates the marriage of a social network and online community better than anything else out there.
Do you agree? Please leave comments or vote on the poll I've created below!
Artwork by *karudoll