Virtual communities

Sat, 11 Dec 1993 17:45:37 EST

"Community" was largely a matter of geography for a long period of
human history. It was the people you lived with. Only recently, with the
emergence of the nation-state, have we seen what Benedict Anderson calls
'imagined communities,' where the links are ideational rather than
geographic, based on affiliative ties rather than filiative (family/clan/
kin/tribe) ones.
What makes 'virtual' communities different from previous 'imaginal'
ones is that they replicate the sense of immediacy (if not face-to-face
contact) found in 'traditional' communities. Many email lists, such as
LERI, think of themselves as "families" or "tribes." There is a sense
of day-to-day participation which is not found in other imagined
communities, even if the relations are (for the moment) only textual.
When multimedia and VR hit the scene, then we'll start seeing *real*
virtual communities. There will be virtual 'gathering places' in
cyberspace. What will be interesting is that members of 'virtual' communities
will have very different identities from whatever 'real' communities they
live in... their virtual representation of themselves can be whatever
they choose, white or black, male or female, human or inanimate.
'Virtual' communities will be different from previous 'imaginal'
communities in that their fictions will be deliberate. National identity
has always been a fiction through which anti-patriots have chosen to see
through. But people have been forced to participate in national fictions;
they can choose whichever 'virtual' communities they want to reside in, and
come and go as they please, and participate in the 'consensual hallucination,'
because they *want* to believe they are with everyone else in their
shared cyberspace, if only for a short while.
Just my 2 cents, folks...