In contemporary business texts corporate sponsored on-line communities are described as central to the commercial development of the Internet, and to the imagined future of narrowcasting and mass customization in the wider world of marketing and advertising. My paper outlines a history of how on-line community has been represented within models of Ecommerce. It critically examines the arguments, narratives and rhetorical strategies drawn on within contemporary business texts to represent on-line community.
The paper also examines some of the connections that are emerging between commercial on-line community development, and commercial models of on-line education. My paper explores how many of the same organizations, strategies, and ways of representing on-line communities and community resources associated with corporate sponsored on-line communities are being reproduced in models of on-line education. I argue that strategic alliances ought to be made between academics and various community groups, in order to keep both communities resources in the public domain. I also argue that teachers need something like an Open Source movement for on-line academic resources, and that taking a leaf out of the book of groups like the Free Software Foundation, we ought to create something like a Free Courseware Foundation, which gives teachers greater control of their resources and better enables them to share materials with colleagues and with the public.