Relations of cause and effect

We hear from friends that many new members of a virtual community to which they belong report initially high levels of enthusiasm, followed by a rapid decline in interest and a return to the activities that previously they pursued. We have also read, in a book on virtual communities, that this effect can be seen in many online communities. We also read, in yet another book on communities in general, that it is not the physical area nor the communication between members that makes a community' but the shared activities which members undertake without realising they are 'in a community'. A link seems to suggest itself: we need to look for information on the possibility that what causes the failure of virtual communities is, in some cases, the fact that the only commonality of members is the time they spend online 'doing' the community, rather than actually being it.

These are, in simplified form, examples of the way we need to make information analytical if we are to use it effectively.

Information classified by the topic under investigation

As well as looking for information prompted by how it relates to other information, we can also consider that there are, broadly, five classes of information involved in reasoning.2 Each is defined in relation to the particular topic we are investigating, and to each other. These classes can be understood as an answer to the question 'how does this information relate to the information involved in my specific topic of investigation?'. They are:

1 information directly relating to the specific topic we are investigating

2 information about the specific background to this topic (closely related knowledge)

3 information about other topics, different from the specific focus of our investigation, but that provides insights that are relevant or analogous to our topic

4 information about the broad field of topics into which this particular topic fits

5 information of theoretical perspectives that are used to establish the topic as a topic and to set the parameters of investigation.

Each class denotes a different relationship between information, focused around the topic. For example, what allows us to talk about a 'related topics' class is the relationship between that class and the specific topic we are reading about. To even

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