¶ 1 Leave a comment on paragraph 1 0 It has been claimed that cyberspace subverts five key notions of the characterisation of empirical communities; it is aspatial, asynchronous, acorporal, astigmatic and anonymous. [Smith 1996] Virtual communities are distributed across networks; they do not have a ‘place’ where they happen. Communication between participants involves a ‘lag time’ between utterances, though exchanges can be read as if they were synchronous occurrences. Since the interaction is text-based, netiquette Frequently Asked Question (FAQ) files remind participants that “because your interaction with the network is through a computer it is easy to forget that there are people ‘out there’.” [Moraes 1994] The lack of physical presence leads to the two remaining characteristics of social interaction; there is a relative absence of cues through which ‘stigmatic’ (Goffman’s term) judgments – of race and gender, for example – can be made, and the facility to disguise the origin of the message makes verifications of identity difficult. [Smith 1996] Together, these issues make the analysis of community highly problematic.
¶ 2 Leave a comment on paragraph 2 0 This chapter focusses on two of these characteristics; the perceptions of space and time and the consequences. It has been suggested that “close attention to the arrangement of time and space, both in broadcasting and other modern institutions, is something which now promises to unite students of the media with social theorists working in a wide range of disciplines across the human sciences.” [Moores 1995: 341] In virtual communities, the researcher finds a synthesis of media and community, one which makes these arrangements all the more critical. The traditional understanding of time and space as separate entities has been gradually eroded in academic disciplines, but this has not been widely recognised by people outside these specialised fields. It is over ninety years since Einstein declared that ‘space’ is what is measured by rulers and ‘time’ is what is measured by clocks, but the implications of these seemingly obvious remarks are still poorly understood. The ephemeral technoscape of cyberspace may redefine the experience of both.