Does the Internet facilitate ‘virtual communities’?
The internet offers endless opportunities and Bill Gates was right when he said that the internet is becoming the town square for the global village of tomorrow. I would argue that it has already become the town square. What can you do in your town square that you couldn’t do on the internet? Not a lot, besides eating a cream cake or catching a bus. From a micro-economic scale of your local bakery having a website where you can buy your wares and Winnifred round the corner selling her knitting on eBay, to a macro-economic scale where states can trade arms, the potential is endless. However it’s not just the economics of your town square that you can practice on the internet. The internet plays host to all aspects of social life as well, friendships and relationships with friends, family and acquaintances can all be conducted online on social media such as Facebook, Twitter and Skype or google hangouts for “face-to-face” calling.
The internet has revolutionised the facilitation of globalisation, and even acted as a catalyst. Axelle Tessandier talks of her experience in the project ‘Polamar5’ in Germany.
The internet tears down previously perceived “barriers” in society such as race, religion but most importantly language. With instant translation services through the internet browsers, individuals can communicate with millions of people across the globe. The internet oozes social mobility and redefines class lines if not breaking class lines altogether in business and socially.
Your “community” cannot be defined by your geographical location or social status. New virtual communities aid progression. As Tessandier professes,
“Our generation is convinced that, at our scale, we can all have an impact. Community by community, we will transform reality. The digital generation cares a lot. We know that there are so many flaws we would love to fix. The digital revolution redefines who we are, who we interact with and how we think of ourselves. It is empowering to be a citizen of the world fulfilled by constant new ideas and points of view.”
Online virtual communities are a bit like raw cookie dough at the moment. Like raw cookie dough, they have the opportunity to be moulded into new shapes and sizes. They taste great but the opportunity for them to taste even better once baked is still there. Do we really want to our online virtual communities to be “baked” though? Set into a permanent structure, where the only option is for them to be consumed or dismantled? Some bloggers would suggest that they would rather these communities and technologies be in a state of perpetual beta. I would say that I have to agree. Nothing is perfect and the beauty of technology, especially online tech, is that it can be constantly updated and improved to suit the needs of our ever changing societies and communities.