Getting a sense of perspective on the issues and questions surrounding online or virtual communities thus requires that we simultaneously look at arguments about off-line or RL communities. What are their contemporary characteristics? Have broader social, political, economic and cultural transformations altered our sense of membership and belonging in communities? These questions mean that we have to think about the changes brought about by processes such as detraditionalization, globalization and postmodernization – and then think about how these relate to arguments about RL and online community. We’ll begin by looking at the broad terms of this debate.