Is the Virtual Community of Any Value? If so what are the Advantages of Online Discussion Forums over Real Society?

Essay by pkkkurd123University, Bachelor'sC+, September 2002

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There are some that raise warnings about the 'hype' surrounding the recent exponential growth of the Internet. They rightly observe that high promises were heard concerning previous media's potential for vastly improving education, accessibility of knowledge, and human community. They are correct to be cautious, but I feel that they also miss the vital differences between this medium; i.e. the Internet, and prior media. This is mainly due to the fact of media audience sizes and the widespread availability of information. That is the Internet has an infinitely larger audience over printed media due to the fact of uncensored world-wide access which have vastly improved uptake of knowledge.

On this topic there is a lot of talk about how, for example virtual communities could be said to be replacing real community. And how computer networks isolate us from one another, rather than bring us together. This could be illustrated by how the analogy of sitting around a table and talking is becoming less and less common as the information superhighway is now constantly bombarding us with information, and less importance is being levied on personal interactions.

But the questions have to be asked; is this way of looking at computer aided discussion forums the case for most of us? Would the table discussion be able to exist if it were not for the computer aided discussion forums available currently? Would I find this if I were to switch off my computer and walk outside? I think not. It looks to me like people are flocking to online meetings due to a lack of such in their real, face to face social lives.

It seems as though the blocks of free self-expression are removed in online discussion forums. And elements that make for more accurate expression are more present.