Re: communities--virtual and otherwise

Douglas B Hanson (dhanson@WORLD.STD.COM)
Mon, 13 Dec 1993 16:38:03 -0500

>> Yes, but isn't your message moving across cultural and international
>> boundaries? Posting your message to the NET is much more than
>>quantiative. This reminds me of the cartoon of two dogs sitting in front
>>of the computer and one says to the other "The great thing about the
>>INTERNET is that no one knows you're a dog."

>> Doug Hanson
>> Forsyth Dental Center

>I send letters across international boundaries, and yes, sometimes to
>people I don't know. Some of the letters are in English, some not. I
>also get letters from people I have never met. I also get tons of junk
>mail from people I don't know. I get telephone calls from people I don't
>know. I'm sending a working draft of a paper out to a bunch of people
>tomorrow--some I know and some I don't. Not all of the recipients are
>American, and some of the copies will go across international boundaries.
>The content of the text is sufficient to identify who I am and what I
>--tend. this is how I recognize junk mail, by the way. Now, I could send
>that paper out faster if all the recipients were on E-mail. I could use
>the CC option. Not only that, but if those recipients respond to the
>paper as I hope, we could become a study group--I could create my own list
>for that purpose. Then we could send out first drafts to one another in
>preparation for a face-to-face symposium. But this won't happen
>because more than half the recipients are not on e-mail. The process will
>be slower. So what's your point?
> Mike

Although I am in general agreement with you, I tend to think of this form
of asynchronous communication (as distinct from posting letters which is
also asynchronous) as less rooted in reality by virtue of its digital
nature. Paper and face-to-face communications are tangible interactions.
Sitting here at my keboard and watching this verbiage pass across this
screen, I am unable to touch you, see you, smell you, hear you or talk to
you; nevertheless I can communicate with you. And my communication with you
is in some sense unbiased since I have no preconceived notions of who you
are and where you come from or what language you think and speak in,
although you write English very well.

I do not agree with one commentator who said that we do not suffer the
consequences of communication in this virtual space. I am not talking about
the long-term consequences here, but the immediate consequence of
misinterpreting someone's dititally-enhanced keystrokes. The flame wars
which show up on this list and the hundreds of others in cyberspace are the
result of our inability to see the body language and facial gestures which
normally accompany face-to-face interaction. Remember that many of us on
this list exist as lurkers, probably because we are uncomfortable with the
consequences of writing something that can easily be misintrepreted. So,
while you can send mail to all of us, only a select few will respond and as
you read back through the mail over the last several months, you will find
that it is usually the same select few who respond. If feel that you are
working in a virtual community by virtue of the fact that you are sharing
your thoughts/ideas with a sizeable community of individuals with similar
interests, many of whom are here to learn and observe rather than
participate. You can't do that by sending a letter.