Sense of community in science fiction fandom, Part 1: Understanding sense of community in an international community of interest

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    Patricia ObstThe Queensland University of Technology

    Lucy ZinkiewiczThe University of Southern Queensland

    Sandy G. SmithThe Queensland University of Technology


    Within the discipline of community psychology, there is debate as to thedimensions underlying the construct of psychological sense of community(PSOC). One of the few theoretical discussions is that of McMillan andChavis (1986), who hypothesized four dimensions: Belonging, Fulfillmentof Needs, Influence, and Shared Connections. Discussion has also emergedin the literature regarding the role of identification within PSOC. It hasbeen suggested that differences in PSOC may be understood in terms of thedegree to which members identify with their community (Fisher & Sonn,1999). However, few studies have explored the place of identification inPSOC. In addition, whereas PSOC has been applied to both communitiesof interest and geographic communities, little research has looked in depthat PSOC within communities of interest. The current study, therefore,explored PSOC in science fiction fandom, a community of interest withmembership from all over the world, by means of a questionnaire

    Lucy Zinkiewicz is now at The National Centre in HIV Social Research, The University of New South Wales.This study was conducted as part of the first authors Ph.D. and was supported in part by a grant from theDepartment of Psychology, The University of Southern Queensland.Correspondence to: Patricia Obst, Ph.D., School of Psychology and Counselling, Queensland University ofTechnology, Carseldine Campus, Beams Road, Carseldine QLD 4034, Australia. E-mail:

    A R T I C L E

    JOURNAL OF COMMUNITY PSYCHOLOGY, Vol. 30, No. 1, 87103 (2002) 2002 John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

  • distributed at an international science fiction convention ( N 5 359). Inan endeavor to clarify the underlying dimensions of PSOC, we includedseveral measures of PSOC and measures of identification with thecommunity in the questionnaire. Results showed that science fictionfandom reported high levels of PSOC. Support emerged for fourdimensions of PSOC and an additional fifth dimension, ConsciousIdentification. These results and their implications for PSOC researchare discussed. 2002 John Wiley & Sons, Inc.


    Much has been written on the idea of community, from many perspectives, resultingin a plethora of definitions and uses of the term. Hillery ~1955!, in a detailed exam-ination of uses of the term community, discovered no less than 94 distinct defini-tions. The term is highly familiar to the general population and is used frequently ineveryday conversation.

    Within the psychological framework, a field of psychology has come to be knownas community psychology. From the framework of working within communities camethe need to define in psychological terms what was meant by community. In 1977,Sarason presented the concept of psychological sense of community ~PSOC! as theoverarching value by which community psychology itself should be defined. At thesame time he recognized the inherent difficulties associated with the empirical studyof the concept. He noted that it necessarily implies a value judgment not compatiblewith hard science, and yet he stated you know when you have it and when you dont~p. 157!. He also noted the basic characteristics of sense of community as the per-ception of similarity with others, an acknowledged interdependence with others, awillingness to maintain this interdependence by giving to or doing for others what oneexpects from them, the feeling that one is part of a larger dependable and stablestructure ~p. 157!.

    Gusfield ~1975! distinguished between two major uses of the term community. Thefirst is the territorial or geographic notion of the word. In this sense, communityrefers to a neighborhood, town, city or region, thus this sense of community impliesa sense of belonging to particular area. The second is a more relational usage, con-cerned with quality and character of human relations without reference to location.This is the sense in which we use community when we refer to communities ofinterest, for example, work settings, hobby clubs, or religious groups. Of course, thesetwo uses are not mutually exclusive; many interest groups are also community ~loca-tion! based. However, as Durkheim ~1964! observed, modern society appears to developcommunity around interest rather than locality. This has been shown to be trueparticularly in large urban centers, where choice is much broader, population densityhigher, and the need for interdependence for survival lesser.

    Within the psychological field, the development of scales to measure PSOC havenecessarily added to its definition, with the majority of scales subjected to factoranalysis to examine the underlying factor structure of PSOC ~e.g., Doolittle & Mac-Donald, 1978!. The development and adjustment of such scales has been an ongoingprocess. Bardo ~1976! was one of the earliest to examine community feelings throughan exploration of community satisfaction. He found the construct to have severalunderlying dimensions: Quality of Interaction, Belongingness, Courtesy, Physical Attrac-

    88 Journal of Community Psychology, January 2002

  • tion, Institutional Responsibility, Entertainment, Comparative Housing Quality, Ade-quacy of Housing and Income, and Status Affect.

    Glynn ~1981!, based on the work of Hillery ~1955!, identified 202 behaviors orsubconcepts relating to sense of community. From these, he developed 120 items toexamine the construct in terms of both real and ideal communities. Factor analysisrevealed six underlying dimensions: Evaluation of Community Structure, SupportiveRelationships in the Community, Similarity of Community Members, Individual Involve-ment in Community, Quality of Community Environment, and Security. Nasar andJulian ~1995! revised Glynns scale to be a more convenient instrument to use, reduc-ing the 60 items examining real communities to 11 items and showing that theshortened scale retained the same dimensions and remained a valid and reliableinstrument.

    McMillan and Chavis ~1986! conducted an in depth review of the literature onPSOC and found that this work was being conducted in the absence of any overarch-ing theoretical base. They developed the first psychological theory of PSOC, which todate has remained one of the few theoretical discussions of the concept and still themost widely used and accepted.

    They suggested that PSOC consists of four elements: Membership, Influence,Integration and Fulfillment of Needs, and Shared Emotional Connection. Member-ship referred to the feeling of belonging, of being part of a collective. A major part ofmembership was boundaries; if one belongs to a particular community, then theimplication is that there are those who do not. This concept intuitively seems to be anecessary part of any definition of community; to have a sense of community, onemust first belong to a community. From the earliest sociological research into com-munities, this notion of membership and boundaries has been present ~e.g., Parks &Burgess, 1921!. McMillan and Chavis ~1986! extended the concept to include emo-tional safety derived from membership, the sense of belonging and identification withthe community of interest, personal investment in the community leading to strongerbonds, and some kind of common symbol system, which unites a community.

    The second dimension was that of Influence, a bidirectional concept, as for agroup to be attractive, an individual must feel they have some control and influenceover it, whereas, conversely, for a group to be cohesive, it also must influence itsindividual members. McMillan and Chavis ~1986! stated that pressure of conformityfrom community members actually comes from the needs of individual members forconsensual validation. In turn, conformity serves as a force for cohesiveness.

    The third dimension, Integration and Fulfillment of Needs, referred to the ideathat for a community to maintain a positive sense of togetherness, the individual-group association must be rewarding for the individual members. Some of the moreobvious rewards examined in their paper are status of membership, success of thecommunity, and the perceived competence of other members.

    The last dimension is that of Shared Emotional Connection. McMillan and Chavis~1986! suggested that this was in part based on a sense of shared history and identi-fication with the community. The authors suggested that the more people interact,the more likely they are to form close relationships. As this interaction becomes morepositive, the bond becomes stronger. Investment in the community determines theimportance to individuals of the communitys success and current status. Those whogive time and effort to community organizations and events will be more concernedabout seeing the positive effects of these events than are those who have not beeninvolved.

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  • McMillan and Chavis ~1986! stated that these aspects of community contribute tocreate each of the dimensions, which in turn work together dynamically to create andmaintain an overall sense of community. Based on this theory, Chavis, Hogge, McMillan,and Wandersman ~1986!, using a Brunswicks lens methodology, developed the twelve-item Sense of Community Index ~SCI! from the responses of 1200 adults in a Neigh-borhood Participation Project. The development of the SCI set the stage for thewidespread use of the theory. To our knowledge, this theory and questionnaire are themost widely used theoretical base and instrument, respectively, in PSOC research todate, especially within community psychology.

    After 10 years of research into the area, McMillan ~1996! revisited the theory thathe and Chavis developed in 1986. Membership was reinterpreted as Spirit, emphasiz-ing friendship and belonging over boundaries. Influence was replaced by Trust, empha-sizing the development of community norms leading to order, and the equal distributionof power leading to authority based on principle and clear decision-making capacity,all of which allow Spirit to grow and flourish. Fulfillment of Needs was replaced byTrade, acknowledging the myriad kinds of rewards individuals gain from belonging tocommunities. The importance of Similarity of Community Members was highlightedalso as an important bonding force previously neglected in this dimension. The finaldimension, Shared Emotional Connection, was replaced by Art, or collective memo-ries, which McMillan described in 1996 as stories of shared dramatic moments inwhich the community shares in common experiences that represent the communitysvalues and traditions.

    However, the primacy of contact and of quality interaction to emotional connec-tion were again highlighted in McMillans ~1996! reinterpretation. These dimensionswork together to create an overall PSOC. Art supports Spirit, Spirit with respectedauthority becomes Trust, Trust forms the basis of social Trade, and together theseelements create a shared history symbolized by Art. In this way, McMillans fourelements of PSOC are linked together in a reinforcing circle.

    From a human ecological perspective, researchers also have worked on the con-cept of communities as a social unit. To what extent and under what conditionscommunities exist have come to be examined under the construct of neighborhoodcohesion. For example, Buckner ~1988! developed the 18-item Neighborhood Cohe-sion Index ~NCI!. This measure attempts to combine the individuals sense of com-munity and the overall social cohesion of their community. Buckner conducted anextensive review into the literature on cohesion, both the social psychological litera-ture on small group processes and the sociological tradition examining cohesionwithin neighborhoods. From this review, he drew three dimensions of importance tocohesion: Residents Sense of Community, Residents Degree of Attraction to being apart of and remaining in the community, and the degree of Member Interaction.However, in a factor analysis during the development of his scale, he found that onlyone factor emerged, and he hypothesized that the concept of neighborhood cohesionsubsumed these individual level dimensions. He concluded that the NCI could beused to examine these individual level dimensions and that a mean neighborhoodcohesion score also could be derived for whole communities to indicate the strengthof cohesion at the system level. Several researchers ~e.g., Robinson & Wilkinson, 1995!have used, commended, and presented validating data in several contexts for Buck-ners NCI.

    Skjaeveland, Garling, and Maeland ~1996! aimed to develop a measure of com-munity that extended previous efforts by introducing the possibility of negative com-

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  • munity relations and by including the traditionally environmental psychological conceptof place attachment, which highlights the importance of the sociophysical environ-ment to social interactions and positively experienced bonds ~Brown & Perkins, 1992!.They operationalized the construct of neighboring as the positive and negative aspectsof social interactions, expectations, and attachments of individuals with the personsliving around them and the place in which they live. They hypothesized six dimen-sions underlying neighboring: Overt Social Interactions, Weak Social Ties influencedby physical and spatial features of the environment, Psychological Sense of Commu-nity, Sense of Mutual Aid, Neighborhood Attachment, and Neighbor Annoyance.Analysis of their data revealed only four distinct dimensions. As proposed, Weak SocialTies, Neighborhood Attachment, and Neighborhood Annoyance emerged as distinctfactors. However, Overt Social Acts, Sense of Mutual Aid, and Sense of Communityamalgamated in a single factor, which the authors labeled Supportive Acts of Neigh-boring, tapping similar dimensions to Buckners ~1988! NCI. The 14-item 4-dimensionMultidimensional Measure of Neighboring ~MMN! was the result of the study.

    Whereas the developments reviewed above have added to our understanding ofPSOC and have seen scales developed for many specific contexts, they also haveresulted in methodologic confusion and lack of strong theory building in this area. Ina recent article on this topic, Chipuer and Pretty ~1999! suggested that research intoPSOC has consequently become stuck in a construct definition and measurementphase, restricting the comparability of results across settings. It could be argued thatthe results of much of this research in fact has been an artifact of the specificorientation of the researchers, as factor analytic techniques can only elucidate whathas been included in the analysis in the first place.

    However, many authors think that the integrative theory of PSOC developed byMcMillan and Chavis ~1986! provides the best foundation on which to build ourunderstanding of communities. Several investigators have found support for McMillanand Chavis hypothesized dimensions. However, such support tends to come fromqualitative studies rather than from quantitative factor analytic studies ~e.g., Bordsky,1996; Plas & Lewis, 1996; Sonn & Fisher, 1996!. In a recent exception, Chipuer andPretty ~1999! examined the psychometric properties of the SCI in neighborhood andworkplace settings and found that the SCI tended to factor in dimensions that weredifferent from those hypothesized by McMillan and Chavis. However, Chipuer andPretty concluded that the SCI provides a good foundation for further PSOC research,and they suggested taking a theory driven, integrative approach to PSOC, including anexamination of how items from other scales may combine with those from the SCI tobetter represent McMillan and Chavis four dimensions. In a recent overview, Chavisand Pretty ~1999! again suggested that much theoretical insight can be gained bypersisting in collaborative scale development.

    Chipuer and Pretty ~1999!, as well as other recent theorists ~Chavis & Pretty, 1999;Fisher & Sonn, 1999; Puddifoot, 1995!, also suggested that differences in levels ofPSOC may be understood in terms of the degree to which members identify with theircommunity, with identification with the community an important aspect of PSOCdimensions such as McMillan and Chavis Membership. Yet, to our knowledge, fewPSOC studies to date have explored the role of identification or incorporated mea-sures of identification with the community. One exception is Fisher and Sonn ~1999!,who found suggestive evidence that identification with the community may be animportant aspect of PSOC. However, we think that such studies are not grounded inrelevant theory relating to identification. Social identity theory ~SIT!, a well-

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  • established theory of group processes and intergroup relations ~Abrams & Hogg, 1990;Hogg & Abrams, 1988; Tajfel & Turner, 1979!, may provide an appropriate theoreticalframework from which to examine the role of identification in PSOC.

    According to SIT, when an individual is strongly aware of their group membershipand it is of strong value and emotional significance to them, then they are said to havestrong ingroup identification ~Hogg, 1992!. Thus, ingroup identification has bothaffective and cognitive consequences. Ingroup identification is strongly associatedwith, among other things, group cohesiveness ~Hogg & Hains, 1996! and strongerinfluence by the group ~Terry & Hogg, 1996; Terry, Hogg & White, 1999!, both clearlyrelated to McMillan and Chavis ~1986! conception of PSOC. Hogg ~1992! suggestedthat whereas McMillan and Chavis conceptualized PSOC largely in terms of mutuallyreinforcing interpersonal processes, an important role is given to identification orbelonging to a normatively bounded social entity. However, to our knowledge, thesocial psychology of this idea has not been pursued to any great extent.

    One of the few geographic community studies that has looked at PSOC andingroup identification incorporated SIT measures of identification and more tradi-tional PSOC measures ~Smith & Ryall, 1999!. In the Smith and Ryall study, Identifi-cation emerged as distinct from other PSOC dimensions and was also a significantpredictor of overall PSOC. The present study follows up Smith and Ryalls study, usingmeasures and insights derived from SIT in our investigation of identification andPSOC within a community of interest.

    One important feature of SIT is that the processes it investigates, including ingroupidentification, apply not only to small groups, where all members interact, but also tolarger groups and social categories, where it is impossible to interact with or evenknow all the members of the group ~Hogg, 1992!. SIT is, therefore, clearly applicableto both geographic communities and communities of interest, where community ismore relational without reference to location ~Gusfield, 1975!.

    Within traditional PSOC research, where considerable work has been done onterritorial or geographic communities, less research has looked in depth at PSOCwithin communities of interest. Whereas some PSOC researchers ~e.g., Hill, 1996;Puddifoot 1995! see the territorial0relational distinction as an essential division andthe cause of much conceptual and methodologic confusion, others ~e.g., McMillan &Chavis, 1986! feel it does not necessarily affect the definition of PSOC, which can beapplied equally to both types.

    Work that has been done on relational rather than geographic communities hastended to focus on the workplace ~Klein & DAunno, 1986; Lambert & Hopkins, 1995;Pretty & McCarthy, 1991; Royal & Rossi, 1996!. Whereas findings in these studies havebeen disparate, they have all shown that PSOC can be applied to such relationalcommunities. However, to our knowledge, no PSOC study to date has looked at acommunity that is even less clearly bounded by geographic limitations ~Chipuer &Pretty, 1999; Heller, 1989!, despite the fact that the advent of the internet and the newpossibility of virtual communities has brought increasing attention to the meaning ofcommunity and sense of community ~Rheingold, 1991!.

    The current study focused on a unique kind of community of interest, namelyscience fiction fandom ~SF fandom!. This community is of particular interest, as it isa community with membership from all over the world, yet one that is clearly aware ofits own identity and history. SF fandom began when Hugo Gernsback launched Amaz-ing Stories magazine in the US in April 1926 ~Hansen, 1994!. In the June 1926 issue,editor Hugo Gernsback noted that many of those buying the magazine had little or no

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  • chance of contacting each other and so, when printing their letters to the magazine inits Discussions column, he started giving their full names and addresses. This led tocorrespondences springing up between readers, the beginnings of a sense of commu-nity, and eventually, to the formation of the first fan groups. From that time SFfandom grew into the extensive network it is today, a community described in anumber of cultural studies texts including Bacon-Smith ~2000!.

    Fans get together at events ranging from local gatherings and conventions throughto the huge world SF conventions, where thousands of fans from all over the worldgather for events, panels, and discussions. However, fannish interaction is not restrictedto face-to-face contact. Although SF fandom was in existence well before the advent ofthe internet, the internet has become its major communication channel. Thus, dailyinteraction with other members can occur from the comfort of home, even if thosemembers live on another continent. Such online communities bring a whole newmeaning and application to the word community.

    The present study is the first of a series based on a research project designed todevelop and clarify the theoretical underpinnings of the concept of PSOC. The projectattempts to extend research into PSOC in a number of ways. First, by using many ofthe measures and perspectives highlighted in the PSOC literature, it endeavored toclarify the dimensions underlying PSOC and, in particular, to investigate how thesedimensions related to those hypothesized by McMillan and Chavis ~1986!. The presentstudy attempted to sample the broad array of work that has been conducted in theconceptual domain of PSOC by including measures developed by many researchers inthe area. In this way, rather than revising or adding dimensions, as many past authorshave done, the project sought to bring much of this past work together in a cohesivemanner. In addition, the project provided an initial examination of the role of iden-tification within PSOC. Finally, the project examined PSOC in both geographic com-munities and a nongeographically based communities of interest.

    Thus a series of articles have been generated, of which this article is the first. Thepresent article examines the underlying dimensions of PSOC in an internationalcommunity of interest, science fiction fandom. In this study, several existing measuresof PSOC were used: the Sense of Community Index ~Chavis, et al. 1986!, the Psycho-logical Sense of Community Scale ~Glynn, 1981; short form: Nasar & Julian, 1995!, theNeighborhood Cohesion Instrument ~Buckner, 1988!, the Community Satisfaction Scale~Bardo & Bardo, 1983!, the Multidimensional Measure of Neighboring ~Skjaevelandet al., 1996!, and the Urban Identity Scale ~Lalli, 1992!. Measures of identificationtaken from a SIT framework were also used to examine the role of identification inPSOC. Whether community members primarily interacted with each other face-to-face, or on the telephone, or through various text-based media ~internet, letters,fanzines!, and the relation of these interactions to PSOC was also explored.

    The second article in this series also examines PSOC of members of SF fandombut extends on the first study in two ways. First, the structure of PSOC with partici-pants community of interest is compared with that of PSOC within their geographiccommunities. This study uses only the SCI and identification measures. The secondarticle assesses the contributions of the PSOC dimensions in generating and main-taining sense of community, the consistency of these dimensions, and the use of thesedimensions across the two types of communities.

    The third and final article in the series reports a large-scale study using multiplemeasures of PSOC ~as in the current article!, conducted in rural, regional, and urbangeographic communities and examines whether the dimensions found in the present

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  • study are confirmed in such a geographic sample. Also, the third study examines theinfluence of demographic factors on PSOC dimensions, and their interrelationship indeveloping overall PSOC.



    Participants were 359 members of SF fandom attending Aussiecon 3, the 1999 WorldScience Fiction Convention, held in Melbourne, Australia, during September 1999.Ages of participants ranged from 1879 years, with a mean age of 39.5 years ~SD 510.8 yrs!. Of those that specified their gender, 186 ~52%! were male and 173 ~48%!female. Length of membership in fandom ranged from 165 years, with a meanmembership length of 15.7 years ~SD 5 10.4 yrs!. Of the sample, 45% were American,37% Australian, 5% British, 5% Canadian, 3% New Zealand, 2% Japanese and 3%from other countries ~e.g., Singapore, Hong Kong, Germany!. The sample was repre-sentative of convention attendees as a whole in terms of gender ~54% male and 46%female! and nationality ~50% American, 34% Australian, 5% British, 3% Canadian,3% New Zealand, 2% Japanese, and 3% other!.

    In terms of occupation, 56% were professionals, 13% were employed in clerical,sales, or service occupations, 10% were in management or administration, 8% werestudents, and 3% were in each of the categories of trades, retired, unemployed, andprimary caregiver. In relation to education, 27% held postgraduate degrees, 46% heldundergraduate degrees, 13% held trade or vocational diplomas, and 13% held highschool certificates. In relation to income, 6% stated that they had an insufficientincome, 60% reported a sufficient income, and 34% reported a more than sufficientincome.


    Research materials consisted of a questionnaire containing the following measures.Twelve items assessed basic demographics: gender, age, nationality, ethnicity, maritalstatus, financial status, education, length of membership in fandom, and the majorform of contact with fandom. Fifty-nine items assessed dimensions of PSOC. Thesewere based on a combination of the following measures: the Sense of CommunityIndex ~Chavis et al., 1986!, the Psychological Sense of Community Scale ~Glynn, 1981;short form: Nasar & Julian, 1995!, the Neighborhood Cohesion Instrument ~Buckner,1988!, the Community Satisfaction Scale ~Bardo & Bardo, 1983!, the Urban IdentityScale ~Lalli, 1992!, and the Multidimensional Measure of Neighboring ~Skjaevelandet al., 1996!. These scales were included to assess a wide range of hypothesized dimen-sions of PSOC. It was unclear which dimensions would emerge as being important tothe community being examined In cases where scales had similar items, the item wasincluded only once.

    Twenty-two items to assess levels of identification within the SF community werealso included. These items were taken from the Three Dimensional Strength of GroupIdentification Scale ~Cameron, 2000! and the Strength of Ingroup Identification Scale~SIIS! ~Brown, Condor, Mathews, Wade & Williams, 1986!. The SIIS has been widelyused in SIT research and has been shown to be a reliable and valid measure ofingroup identification. Camerons ~2000! scale has only recently been developed, and

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  • was included because it taps into different aspects of identification: affective aspects~Ingroup Affect subscale!, consciousness of group membership ~Centrality subscale!,and sense of connection with other ingroup members ~Ingroup Ties subscale!.

    Two questions assessing self-reported overall feelings of sense of community werealso included ~e.g., In general, I feel that SF fandom has a strong sense of commu-nity!. These were included to assess feelings of global sense of community. Suchmeasures have been used in previous research ~e.g., Wilson & Baldassare, 1996!.

    All items were responded to on a Likert scale ranging from 1 ~strongly disagree!to 7 ~strongly agree!. All items were modified to suit SF fans. All scales contained anumber of negatively worded items, which were reverse scored before analysis.


    After development, the questionnaire was piloted on SF fans from Australia, Canada,the USA, and the UK. The final, revised, questionnaire and associated consent formwere included in the information packs given to all convention delegates when theyregistered. In this manner, all 1200 convention attendees were given the opportunityto participate in the research. The researcher staffed a research information table atthe convention site to answer any questions regarding the research. Additional copiesof the questionnaire were available at this table. The consent form detailed the natureof the study and required participants to transfer a number from the questionnaire tothe consent form to show active consent was given. Participants placed their com-pleted questionnaire in one of two sealed boxes ~similar to those used at pollingstations! placed at the study information table and near the convention registrationdesk. In total, 359 of the 1245 members attending the convention returned completedquestionnaires, representing an approximately 30% response rate.


    Overall Sense of Community

    To assess the overall sense of community with SF fandom, we combined the twoquestions tapping this concept. The mean score was 5.79 ~SD 5 1.18!, where a score of1 indicated the weakest possible sense of community, and 7 indicated the strongest.This mean suggests that there was a high level of sense of community within SFfandom.

    Dimensions of Sense of Community in SF Fandom

    All 81 items measuring PSOC and identification with SF fandom were entered into aprincipal components analysis. Inspection of communalities and correlation matricesindicated that the data were suitable for this analysis. This was confirmed by a Kaiser-Meyer-Olkin ~KMO! sampling adequacy of .94. Inspection of eigenvalues and the screeplot revealed that a five-factor solution was the most adequate and parsimoniousfactor structure.

    The five-factor solution accounted for 55.6% of the variance in the data and wasbased on factors with eigenvalues greater than 2.5. The solution was subjected to aorthogonal varimax rotation as none of the correlations between factors were greaterthan .4. Twenty-nine items loaded above .40 on the first factor, which accounted for

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  • the majority of variance ~28.2%!. Items dealt with being attached to, a part of, orbelonging to SF fandom ~e.g., I feel like I belong in SF fandom; I feel at home andcomfortable in SF fandom; SF fandom is a good thing to be a part of.!. Someingroup identification items tapping the concept of belonging also loaded on thisfactor ~e.g., I really fit in SF fandom; I feel a part of SF fandom.!. This factor waslabeled Belonging.

    Fourteen items loaded above .40 on the second factor, which accounted for afurther 8.1% of the variance in the data. Items loading on this factor were thoserelating to similarity of members ~e.g., I have a lot in common with other membersof SF fandom; Most members of SF fandom agree about what is important in lifeand the ability to work together and get things done. e.g., If there was a problem,fandom members could get together and solve it.!. Two items stating that fandom wasbetter than other groups also loaded on this factor. This factor was labeled Cooper-ative Behavior and Shared Values.

    Twenty-one items loaded above .40 on Factor 3, which accounted for 7.3% of thevariance in the data. Items loading on this factor were to do with emotional supportand friendship ~e.g., If I need a little company, I can contact a fellow fan; Myfriends in fandom are part of my everyday activities.!. This factor was labeled Friend-ship and Support.

    Five items loaded above .40 on Factor 4, which accounted for 6.4% of the variancein the data. Items loading on this factor appeared to deal with conscious identificationwith fandom ~e.g., I often think about being a part of SF fandom; I am consciousof the fact that I am a member of SF fandom.!. This factor was labeled ConsciousIdentification.

    Seven items loaded on the Factor 5, which accounted for 5.6% of the variance inthe data. These items related to influence over the organization and leadership ~e.g.,Fan leaders dont hear the voices of ordinary fans; I have almost no influence overwhat SF is like.!. The direction of loadings on this factor suggest that the factoractually tapped disaffection with leadership and lack of influence. This factor waslabeled Leadership and Influence. Five items did not load above .40 on any factor. SeeAppendix A for details of items loading on each factor and the scales from whichitems were taken.

    The items loading on each factor were then subject to reliability analysis usingCronbachs alpha. As can be seen from Table 1, the alpha values for each factorranged from moderate to high. Thus, new composite variables were made for eachfactor by taking the mean of all items loading on that factor. Mean scores for eachfactor are shown in Table 1.

    Table 1. Reliability Analyses and Scale Means for Factors

    Factor n items a Mean SD

    Belonging 29 .85 5.43 .84Cooperative Behavior 14 .85 4.77 .87Friendship and Support 21 .75 5.12 1.06Conscious Identification 5 .76 4.24 1.19Leadership and Influence 7 .69 3.68 .93

    Note: Mean scores range from 1 ~low levels of variable! to 7 ~high levels of variable!.

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  • Contact with Fandom

    In relation to primary form of contact with other fans, over a third ~34%! of partici-pants reported making contact with other SF fans mainly at local gatherings; 18%made most frequent contact at conventions, and 14% had most contact throughpersonal get-togethers and phone calls. Of those using text-based forms of commu-nication, 26% of the sample made most frequent contact through the internet, whereas8% made most contact through magazines and mail. Interestingly, no differences inlevels of PSOC emerged between fans whose major contact with other fans was face-to-face and those whose contact was text-based.


    The results of this study show that members of SF fandom felt high levels of PSOC.This is an important finding, suggesting that PSOC can be a strong facet of commu-nities of interest. This may be because members choose to belong to such communi-ties and are drawn together for a common interest. In the present study, this findingis of particular significance, as SF fandom operates on an international basis withfewer geographic connections than other relational communities. In fact, over aquarter of the sample in this study reported interacting with other fans primarily overthe internet rather than face-to-face. Furthermore, the fact that no significant differ-ences emerged in the PSOC of those whose major contact was text-based rather thanface-to-face suggests that regular face-to-face contact is not essential to the develop-ment and maintenance of PSOC. Thus, strong PSOC can exist in the absence ofgeographic proximity, even in the absence of regular face-to-face contact.

    In examining the dimensions that underlie PSOC in SF fandom, we noticed thatthe factors that emerged in the factor analysis supported those theorized by McMillanand Chavis ~1986!, with the addition of a Conscious Identification dimension.

    The first factor, labeled Belonging, tapped items dealing with being attached to,being a part of, or belonging to SF fandom. Some ingroup identification items alsoloaded on this factor. This factor fits with dimension of Membership and McMillans~1996! more recent concept of Spirit, the underlying sense of belonging and identi-fication with the community.

    Items loading on the second factor were those relating to similarity of membersand the ability to work together and get things done. This factor was labeled Coop-erative Behavior. This factor fits with McMillan and Chavis ~1986! notion of Fulfill-ment of Needs, which taps the idea that PSOC allows individuals to get their needsmet through cooperative behavior within the community, thereby reinforcing individ-uals appropriate community behavior. It also reinforces the importance of similarityto this dimension, which McMillan ~1996! included in his newer notion of Trade.

    Factor 3 was labeled Friendship and Support. It tapped items to do with emotionalsupport and friendship. This factor fits with McMillan and Chavis notion of SharedEmotional Connection, again highlighting the importance of contact, seen also inMcMillans ~1996! updated dimension Art. Finally, the factor labeled Leadership andInfluence, tapping items related to influence over the organization and leadership, issimilar to McMillan and Chavis notion of Influence. This is the idea of needing areciprocal relationship between individuals and the community in terms of theirimpact on one another.

    Sense of Community in Science Fiction Fans 97

  • However, in these data another factor emerged beyond the four theorized byMcMillan and Chavis ~1986!. Items loading on this factor appeared to deal withconscious identification and awareness of fellow members. This factor was thus labeledConscious Identification. Whereas many identification items were subsumed withinBelonging, it would appear that this very conscious awareness of membership is aseparate dimension.

    These findings are consistent with those of Smith and Ryall ~1999!, who found thatidentification emerged as a separate dimension to PSOC in their examination ofgeographic communities. This is also consistent with Cameron ~2000!, who found thatingroup identification consisted of three dimensions: Ingroup Ties, the sense of con-nection with other group members; Ingroup Affect, the affective component of iden-tification and the feeling of fitting in; and Centrality or Awareness of Group Membership,the extent to which group membership contributes to self-definition. Interestingly,the items from Camerons scale measuring Ingroup Ties fell mainly into the factors ofFriendship and Support, and of Belonging, whereas the items measuring IngroupAffect fell into the Belonging factor. The items from Camerons scale which measuredCentrality were those that formed the basis of the factor Conscious Identification.These results suggested that separate aspects of identification may relate to differentdimensions of PSOC. Whereas identifications more affective components and con-nection with other members are subsumed within McMillan and Chavis theorizeddimensions of PSOC, knowledge and awareness of group membership is a separateand important dimension of PSOC.

    The findings of this study have important implications for future PSOC research.First, they suggest that identification measures, taken from the social identity perspec-tive, are useful for expanding our understanding of the role of identification in PSOCby allowing an in-depth examination of the different aspects of identification. How-ever, more importantly, they indicate that identification does play an important role inPSOC and that the centrality aspect of identification is not subsumed within McMillanand Chavis ~1986! existing PSOC dimensions. More investigation is needed withinPSOC research into the importance and role of identification with the community.

    Although this study did not serve as a direct test of the Sense of CommunityIndex, in that many other measures of PSOC were also included in the questionnaire,the results of the current study are encouraging in terms of theory building. McMillanand Chavis ~1986! have provided one of the few theoretical bases from which tounderstand the dimensions underlying PSOC. This study provides empirical supportfor McMillan and Chavis theorized dimensions, in a relational community that oper-ates internationally. In this light, it shows that their theory is applicable to many kindsof communities, beyond the ones in which it was developed. The findings contrastwith those obtained in previous studies using only the SCI, which have failed to showclear support for their dimensions ~Chipuer & Pretty, 1999!, and suggest that althoughthe theory is applicable to many kinds of communities, the SCI itself may still needsome expansion and development.

    In conclusion, this study has found some quantitative evidence for McMillan andChavis theorized dimensions of PSOC. However, it also suggests that the role ofidentification needs clarification within that theoretical framework. Future research inthis area could benefit by using an integrative framework, including measures andunderstanding of identification developed through SIT research that were only touchedon in the current study.

    98 Journal of Community Psychology, January 2002

  • In terms of its wider societal implications, this study also provides a positiveoutlook. Although much current rhetoric points to the danger of the internet indestroying community and promoting social isolation, the present results suggest thatcommunity and a strong sense of community can exist among those interacting withincyberspace. This may have an important impact in reducing the social isolation ofthose who currently find themselves isolated because they are living in remote areas orhave physical disabilities. Perhaps rather than technology breaking down communi-ties, communities themselves are evolving in meaning and spirit, in line with techno-logic and societal trends.

    Appendix A

    Items Loading on Factors

    Factor 1: Belonging.

    Item Scale Loading

    I plan to remain a member of SF fandom for a number of years UIS NCI SCI .85In general Im glad to be a member of SF fandom. CIA SGIS .84Given the opportunity I would like to leave SF fandom. NCI .83I think SF fandom is a good thing for me to be a part of. SCI .82I see myself as belonging to SF fandom. UIS SGIS .80Generally I feel good when I think about being a member of SF fandom. CIA .74SF fandom plays a part in my everyday life. UIS CC .74SF fandom is a good thing to belong to. CSS .69It is important to me to be a part of SF fandom. SCI .67SF fandom is a part of me. UIS .66I feel at home and comfortable in SF fandom. UIS MMN SCI .64I feel strongly attached to SF fandom. MMN .62I feel like I belong in SF fandom. NCI .61Overall I am very attracted to being a part of SF fandom. NCI .60I often regret that I am a member of SF fandom. CIA 2.59I would rather belong to a different group. SGIS 2.58SF fandom plays a part in my future plans. UIS .58I have strong feelings for SF fandom. UIS .56I dont care if SF fandom does well. PSCS 2.55SF fandom is dull. CSSI dont feel comfortable in SF fandom. MMN .53I make excuses for belonging to SF fandom. SGIS 2.52There is not enough going on in SF fandom to keep me interested. CSS 2.50I really fit in SF fandom. CIT .49I feel loyal to people in SF fandom. NCI .48Thinking about being a member of SF fandom sometimes makes

    me annoyed.CIA SGIS 2.46

    I can recognize most people who are members of SF fandom. SCI .45I consider SF fandom to be important. SGIS .41I am looking forward to seeing future developments in SF fandom. UIS .41

    Note: SGIS 5 Strength of Group Identification Scale ~Brown et al., 1986!; CIA 5 Ingroup Affect Subscale ~Cameron, 2000!;CIT 5 Ingroup Ties Subscale ~Cameron, 2000!; CC 5 Centrality Subscale ~Cameron, 2000!; SCI 5 Sense of CommunityIndex ~Chavis et al., 1986!; PSCS 5 Psychological Sense of Community Scale ~Glynn, 1981!; NCI 5 Neighborhood CohesionInstrument ~Buckner, 1988!; MMN 5 Multidimensional Measure of Neighboring ~Skjaeveland et al., 1996!; CSS 5 Com-munity Satisfaction Scale ~Bardo & Bardo, 1983!; UIS 5 Urban Identity Scale ~Lalli, 1992!.

    Sense of Community in Science Fiction Fans 99

  • Factor 2: Cooperative Behavior and Shared Values.

    Item Scale Loading

    I would be willing to work together with others to improve SF fandom. NCI .82I feel good when my fellow fans do good things. PSCS .81If there is a problem in SF fandom fans can get it solved. SCI PSCS .76People know that they can get help from others in SF fandom if in trouble. PSCS .68I think I agree with most people in SF fandom about what is important in life. NCI .65If members of SF fandom were planning something, Id think of it as

    something were doing rather than something theyre doing.NCI .64

    Members of SF fandom get along well. SCI .55I am quite similar to most members of SF fandom. NCI PSCS .53I have a lot in common with other members of SF fandom. CIT .49SF fandom is well maintained by its members. CSS .45As compared to other groups SF fandom has many advantages. UIS .44SF fandom is better than any other group Ive been a member of before. CSS .43Other fans and I want the same things from SF fandom. SCI .42People in SF fandom do not share the same values. SCI .41

    Note: CIT 5 Ingroup Ties Subscale ~Cameron, 2000!; SCI 5 Sense of Community Index ~Chavis et al., 1986!; PSCS 5Psychological Sense of Community Scale ~Glynn, 1981!; NCI 5 Neighborhood Cohesion Instrument ~Buckner, 1988!; CSS 5Community Satisfaction Scale ~Bardo & Bardo, 1983!; UIS 5 Urban Identity Scale ~Lalli, 1992!.

    Factor 3: Friendship and Support.

    Item Scale Loading

    I rarely contact individual members of SF fandom. NCI 2.83I have no friends in SF fandom on whom I can depend. PSCS 2.82If I need a little company, I can contact a fandom member I know. MMN .78I often help my fellow fans with small things, or they help me. MMN .75If I have a personal problem, there is no one in SF fandom I can turn to. MMN PSCS 2.74I contact fellow fans often. NCI .71My friends in SF fandom are part of my everyday activities. PSCS .66I exchange favors with fellow members of SF fandom. MMN NCI .65If I feel like talking I can generally find someone in fandom to chat to. PSCS .65If I need advice about something I could ask someone in SF fandom. NCI .57The friendships I have with other people in SF fandom mean a lot to me. NCI .52I care about what other fans think about my actions. SCI .52I find it difficult to form a bond with other members of SF fandom. CIT 2.50A feeling of fellowship runs deep between me and other people

    in SF fandom.NCI .48

    Very few members of SF fandom know me. SCI 2.46I dont feel a sense of being connected with other SF fans. CIT 2.45I feel a strong sense of ties to other members of SF fandom. CIT SGIS .43I have made new friends by joining SF fandom. MMN .42SF fandom is very familiar to me. UIS .41I chat with my fellow fans when I can. MMN .41If I had an emergency, even people I dont know in SF fandom would help. NCI PSCS .40

    Note: SGIS 5 Strength of Group Identification Scale ~Brown et al., 1986!; CIT 5 Ingroup Ties Subscale ~Cameron, 2000!;SCI 5 Sense of Community Index ~Chavis et al., 1986!; PSCS 5 Psychological Sense of Community Scale ~Glynn, 1981!;NCI 5 Neighborhood Cohesion Instrument ~Buckner, 1988!; MMN 5 Multidimensional Measure of Neighboring ~Skjae-veland et al., 1996!; UIS 5 Urban Identity Scale ~Lalli, 1992!.

    100 Journal of Community Psychology, January 2002

  • Factor 4: Conscious Identification.

    Item Scale Loading

    I often think about being a member of SF fandom. CC .71I am not usually conscious of the fact that I am a member of SF fandom. CC 2.69Being a member of SF fandom is an important part of my self image. CC .61Being a member of SF fandom has little to do with how I feel about

    myself in general.CC .53

    The fact that I am a member of SF fandom rarely enters my mind. CC .50

    Note: CC 5 Centrality Subscale ~Cameron, 2000!.

    Factor 5: Disaffection with Leadership and Inf luence.

    Item Scale Loading

    I have almost no influence over what SF fandom is like. SCI .70People in SF fandom give you a bad name if you insist on being different. CSS .65Fan leaders run fandom to suit themselves. CSS .61Leaders of fandom dont hear the voice of ordinary fans. CSS .59No one seems to care how SF fandom is going. CSS .53SF fan leaders care about what happens in SF fandom. CSS 2.49The leaders get very little done in SF fandom. CSS .47

    Note: SCI 5 Sense of Community Index ~Chavis et al., 1986!; CSS 5 Community Satisfaction Scale ~Bardo & Bardo, 1983!.

    Items Not Loading on a Factor.

    Item Scale

    Few people in SF fandom make a decent income. CSSI am often irritated with some of my fellow fans. MMNLots of things in SF fandom remind me of my past. UISSF fandom is seen as having prestige. UISSF fandom lacks real leaders. CSS

    Note: MMN 5 Multidimensional Measure of Neighboring ~Skjaeveland et al., 1996!; CSS 5Community Satisfaction Scale ~Bardo & Bardo, 1983!; UIS 5 Urban Identity Scale ~Lalli,1992!.


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    Sense of Community in Science Fiction Fans 103

    ABSTRACTINTRODUCTIONMETHODParticipantsMaterialsProcedureRESULTSOverall Sense of CommunityDimensions of Sense of Community in SF FandomTable 1. Reliability Analyses and Scale Means for FactorsContact with FandomDISCUSSIONAppendix A--Items Loading on FactorsREFERENCES


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