Virtual Communities

Essay by PaperNerd ContributorUniversity, Bachelor's November 2001

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The Internet is a potential arena for the creation of an egalitarian society. It allows users to interact in an environment where materialistic possessions and appearance do not play a role. Essentially, there is a potential recreation of one's self. However, the Internet and virtual communities are not always places where there is a sense of equality, nor are all people equally represented. An exploration of virtual communities begins to define some of the inherent contradictions, and complexities that occur within cyberspace.

I would suggest that in its most basic form CMC (computer mediated communication) takes on a textual form, where ideas are exchanged through typed prose. To label text as a basic form of communication does not mean that it cannot be a medium for the expression of powerful ideas. The ideas in a haiku, for example, are expressed simply but are robust with imagery and meaning.

meteor shower --- a gentle wave wets our sandals Michael Dylan Welch The above haiku is significant because it represents how plain text, whether it is a poem, a letter or email allows the sharing and exchange of ideas.

When people share ideas within a chat room, they are at times limited to using text but this does not imply that meaningful ideas, thoughts and emotions cannot be shared and exchanged. In the absence of "˜face to face' communication, people can develop a shared sense of self something akin to the development of community. However, the idea that community can exist in a virtual environment is a contentious issue.

Community is an important term to understand, as its different definitions challenge whether a "˜virtual community' can, in fact, exist. Within the New College there are two definitions of community. The first describes community as ""¦a group of people living under the...