This thesis concentrates on the intersection of two subjects:
information society, envisioned as the goal of modern social development, and the contemporary community by analyzing the specific issue of social life in virtual communities (i.e. communities mediated by information and communication technologies) in the South-East European (SEE) context. The objectives of the research were twofold. On the one hand, research concentrated on producing a general description of the virtual community phenomenon and developing a deeper understanding through identifying the associated social actors and processes in the SEE. On the other hand, theoretical constructs related to the virtual communities and information society in the region had to be empirically validated. In this context, three hypotheses have been used as initial suppositions on the research problem: (a) H1 on empirical validity of the virtual community (VC) concept in Croatian society and the high level of VC embeddedness into the wider social structures/processes, (b) H2 on existence of the specific social actors and processes within the empirically analyzed VCs and (c) H3 on identifiable distinctions between the VCs in the analyzed (Croatian) social context and those previously identified in developed (post)modern societies. They have been analyzed by formulating and conducting a quantitative empirical research project, based on surveying a nationally representative, probabilistic sample of Croatian households (as previously suggested by key informants, during the qualitative empirical research stage), which has been performed by using the face-to-face interviewing procedure. Although a high level of virtual communities' social embeddedness was established, a high level of formal VC membership and an orientation toward creating new social ties on the Internet could not be supported by empirical evidence. Therefore, H1 was only partially accepted. Empirical analysis has fully confirmed the social patterns hypothesized by H2 and H3, thus, demonstrating that the modernization/European transformation agenda for the SEE region, implied by the prevailing theoretical and policy concept(s) of the 'information society' and the associated concepts/tools, should be adjusted to the specific regional characteristics and social needs.