Can Community Exist Without Physical Beings?
// Posted by David on 05/22/2015 (12:07 PM)
First, I want to apologize. I have violated one of the key discussion rules. I posted late. Not last minute, but late. I can assure you that this is a one-time occurrence and I will not make it a habit. I ask you for forgiveness. I think I got so wrapped up in choosing the right alias to use in our chatroom experience that I simply got behind.
Now that this unpleasantness is behind us, my real post:
I found the quotes and ideas espoused by Howard Rheingold to be rather thought provoking. First, his idea of virtual community. This term, which I find to be simple and self-explanatory, is actually the basis for much of what was happening online in the 70s and 80s, as it is now. On then, as the book states, it was new. At that time, it was text only, but today anything goes – text, images, videos, anything. Does this deviation from text only diminish the community or does it strengthen it? I honestly don’t know.
Something the book notes is that the text-only approach lent itself to the ability to connect with others “without encountering body-based forms of prejudice.” While adding prejudice to the mix certainly detracts from the experience, isn’t it inevitable? It was already noted that at the time, the differences between how men and women interacted with the internet and with each other was different.
Next, the debate Rheingold started about the authenticity of “online interpersonal communications,” is something that I often wonder about. For example, my Facebook “friends.” Maybe 10 people plus family do I ever encounter in person. Does that make the interactions I have with the 80 others any more or less valuable? Do I really care what the kid I was in 3rd grade with had for dinner on his vacation with his 3 kids and 3rd wife at Disney World? I don’t, but what if I did? If I engaged him in conversation about his experience and I found our conversation meaningful, is that communication/relationship and more or less valid than if we had it in person? I don’t know.
Another experience: I took the required SPCS (then SCS) Interpersonal Communication class online. I thought this was an odd concept from the time I saw it, but I went forth. We did a lot of reading and some discussing, but I still didn’t understand. This was an online class, an online community, and also as stated in the book this “computer-mediated communication” made it so that our “bodies…ceased to matter.” This made it even more difficult for me to comprehend this particular course existing online. Does anyone else see this as being paradoxical? Is it possible for effective interpersonal communication to exist online? Without qualifying it as “virtual” or “online” can you have a community with face to face, interpersonal, communication?