Through thick and thin in cyberspace: analyzing anorexia-based communities of practice using dialectical theory

This thesis employed dialectical theory to compare communication practices in two online anorexia-based communities of practice, and Grace on the Moon. This study served three primary purposes: (1) to compare dialectical tensions and tension-management practices in the two communities, (2) to encourage the expansion of CoP research into virtual environments and (3) to better understand the degree to which community communication practices transcend groups. The analysis identified manifestations of the three key dialectical tensions: separateness-connectedness, openness-closedness, and predictability-novelty. An additional tension, control-connection, was also identified. The study demonstrated the affordances of studying online communities with dialectical theory, suggesting a new way of comparing communication practices in topically similar communities.