Virtual Communities

1 Leave a comment on paragraph 1 0 Although “the primacy of the electronic apparatus suggests a mass-mediated culture that allegedly destroys all sense of community and belonging… the appropriation of that apparatus within this context suggests only the reverse.” [Collins 1995: 45] The emergence of the Internet provided electronic forums for people to communicate with one another via their computers. Howard Rheingold proposed the term ‘Virtual Community’ to describe the activity of electronic forums. “Virtual communities are social aggregations that emerge from the Net when enough people carry on those public discussion long enough, with sufficient human feeling, to form webs of personal relationships in cyberspace.” [Rheingold 1995: 5]

2 Leave a comment on paragraph 2 0 Virtual communities are growing ever more sophisticated, from simple mailing lists to complex three-dimensional shared spaces. However, there has been little analysis of these communities beyond the entrenched views of their protagonists and their detractors. It is into this breach that Anthropology can step; “anthropological analysis can be important not only for understanding what these ‘villages’ and ‘communities’ are but, equally important, for imagining the kinds of communities that human groups can create with the help of emerging technologies.” [Escobar 1994: 218]

3 Leave a comment on paragraph 3 0 Over the last three years, the explosive growth of the World Wide Web (WWW) – originally a means for scientists at the particle physics laboratories at CERN to exchange data – has made the Internet the focus of intense media interest as graphical hypertext medium. It is what people generally think of when they think of the Internet, but is, in fact, only one way of accessing the information on it. The virtual communities which are the subject of this study are not accessed via the WWW, but rather through other services such as email, Usenet and conferencing. They are text-based services, which, though unexciting to look at, encompass the majority of social interactions on the Internet. [see Appendix 1]

4 Leave a comment on paragraph 4 0 The restriction of communicative activity to such a narrow band of human experience does not rule out social activity, but merely limits it. There is, on the one hand, the diminution of the human sensorium; it is claimed that “true interactivity is what happens between human beings,” [Carlsson 1995: 242] and that virtual interaction is thus stultified. Yet on the other hand, there is an encouragement of participation, since “people are more sociable under conditions in which they can better control the presentation of self in everyday life.” [Nguyen & Alexander 1995: 104] There would appear to be no fixed value that can be attached to the means of transmission alone.

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Source: http://cpmu.haystack.co.uk/newbie/introduction/virtual-communities/