Images of Community

John Mcreery (jlm@TWICS.COM)
Mon, 13 Mar 1995 22:32:42 JST

Joe Zias writes,

"Regarding your equating Norman Rockwell with "community" on the Internet,
having been a product of small towns in the US I would have to disagree.
Life in small towns is more like an Edward Hopper painting."

Believe me, I don't think "community" on the internet is like a Norman
Rockwell idealization of small town America. But since I do subscribe to
a prototype-and-family-resemblance/ramifications view of meaning, I do
think it's important to consider the prototypes we bring to our uses of
"community" in our debates. If I start with the Norman Rockwell prototype
I will see events rather differently from someone who starts with Edward
Hopper or, like Seeker, starts with an urban, Jewish neighborhood.I am
bemused by anthropologists, who, one supposes, are trained to be sensitive
to such differences, who blithely equate "community" with "free speech" and
thus deplore "censorship," as if we were in the mud together in Woodstock.

Thus, for example, while I am moved by Leiber's story of the fellow whose
"community" almost threw him off the island where he'd lived for many years,
only to have one of its chiefs show compassion in what is, to me, an
entirely laudable way, I query its relevance to a "community" whose members
are scattered around the globe and linked only electronically. Bouncing someone
off a listserve, on a net where there are many, far too many to join strikes
me as an act occuring in a very different context. My image is a bar with
a bouncer. Candice suggests a senior common room, which at the very least
has a very different emotional tone. If it is, in fact, more like an
Edward Hopper small town, what does this imply?

Awaiting enlightenment (or, perhaps, Godot),

John McCreery