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How do we manage sustainable spaces for exploring challenging issues around open?

Steinmueller’s definition of virtual community is as he says minimalist

“A virtual community exists when it is possible for a group of individuals to meet and interact with each other in cyberspace and these individuals voluntarily choose to participate in these meetings and interactions”.(Steinmueller 2002)

He offers three additional dimensions recruitment, governance and sustainability with which to examine virtual communities.

Femedtech definitely fits his definition and all three dimensions are relevant to femedtech, but I am going to look sustainability in this post.

I developed my thinking about sustainability of virtual community (a term from around the turn of the century) when I worked with others on CABWEB, an international student and staff online collaboration project.

“When a social group is voluntary, its persistence relies on the perceived value it offers to its members, and there are many examples of deserted online ‘communities’ (Steinmueller, 2002).  Steinmueller focuses on the issue of sustainability by characterizing it as something that can be lost either when there is a coordination failure or when, for enough individuals, the costs of participation exceed the perceived benefits. Costs of participation include membership fees, costs of computer hardware and software, Internet connection charges, time spent in communicating. Benefits can be seen as social where participants enjoy discussion and forming relationships online; functional related to information seeking and gathering; psychological where participants can develop and express their identity, experience a sense of belonging andaffiliation; and hedonic where they enjoy themselves (Wang & Fesenmaier, 2004).” (Bell, Zaitseva & Zakrzewska 2007).

In its short life Femedtech has experienced losses and gains in sustainability. is the second website for and the introduction of shared curation has provided an impetus for growth in the scope and impact of the femedtech network or virtual community, call it what you will. Femedtech is in a much better place than it was a year ago.

In her post Who’s responsible for the future of open? #femedtech #oer19 , Maren Deepwell identifies practical issues that can apply to Open in general and to femedtech and its individual participants in particular:

 “characteristics and questions around the lack of long term planning, questioning ownership and motivation and the need to appreciate different perspectives from which what we find challenging about open can be explored. One very generic sounding conclusion to draw is that the only rule is to make use of your voice, to continue to engage and question, not to become indifferent or disengaged no matter how difficult that can seem at times.”

One practical manifestation of  sustainable practices is authors cross-posting on and their personal blogs. We hope that this Open Space will support the sustainability of femedtech and that femedtech can support the exploration of the challenges of Open that Maren recommends.


Bell, F., Zaitseva, E. and Zakrzewska, D. (2007) ‘Evaluation: A Link in the Chain of Sustainability’, in Lambropoulos, N. and Zaphiris, P. (eds) User-Centered Design of Online Learning Communities. Hershey,PA: Idea Group, pp. 186–214.

Steinmueller, W. E. (2002) ‘Virtual Communities and the New Economy’, in Mansell, R. (ed.) Inside the Communication Revolution: Evolving Patterns of Social and Technical Interaction. Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 21–54.

Wang, Y., Yu, Q. and Fesenmaier, D. R. (2002) ‘Defining the virtual tourist community: implications for tourism marketing’, Tourism Management, 23, pp. 407–417.