Digital Communities?

The Changing Structure of Communities

Community has been defined in the past as a social group of people that are cohesive in a larger connection of participation that share common goals and usually a geographical location. However, in this new technological era the definition of community is drastically changing as “there is talk about the loss of ‘real’ community (Willson 3).” Block parties nowadays are on the verge of extinction and it is becoming more and more rare if people even know the names of the people that live next door, not to mention the people on their street. With almost everything in our lives the structure of communities are changing and increasingly going digital. Which comes to the question of what makes a virtual community?

The well-known social network Facebook cannot only be known as a place to chat with your friends but is turning into a community, which has all of the aspects that make and hold a community together: bonding and connection, reciprocity and recognition, commonality and identity.

Other than your own personal profile and friends, Facebook offers a plethora of groups on subjects that range from nationalism to wildlife. These groups offer a sense of bonding or connection not only Facebook itself but to other members of the Facebook community.
Furthermore, Facebook groups also offer a wall, in which people may discuss subjects with other members, submit their opinion and even upload photographs related to the cause. They keep order by employing rules for groups and the choice to report someone for bad misconduct.
Finally, all of the groups are born out of a commonality of all of their members’ interests and therefore you may learn a lot about someone’s identity from viewing what kind of Facebook groups they have joined.

Everyday our lives are becoming more and more digitalized; we spend more time online in our everyday lives than almost anything else. We store our lives in technology from our emails, to friends phone numbers, to our work. Which comes to the question: are virtual communities the communities of the future?

In my opinion no, sure we will always have our friends and family and even close neighbors that we speak to as a community and even maybe a sports community on the side. People will always need face-to-face interaction in their everyday lives and community events are a way to do that, especially children’s events. We will have our online communities but there will always be a Blueridge Days and a West Van Days, a rebirth of the community once a year so that the community will not be forgotten, for what it offers: a chance to meet the people around you and have a laugh while doing so. As long as people keep the concept of a “real” community alive, it will live on. Online communities are coming to their peak and at some point or another the “real” community will catch up maybe not completely, but for a time the space in between will shrink as at the end of the day you’d rather see a person than read how well they can type.

Works Cited

Willson, Michele A. Technically Together: Rethinking Community within Techno-society. New York: Peter Lang Publishing Inc, 2006.

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1 Comment

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One response to “Digital Communities?

  1. Anonymous

    Here is a great article from the Guardian concerning Facebook

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2008/
    jan/14/facebook

    An important question to remember – who is creating these communities and how does it benefit them?

    Digital communities have been around for a long time. Bulletin Board Services(BBS) were very popular in 70′ up to the early 90’s. In fact the first digital community was created in 1972. These communities were not generally commercial in nature and tended to reflect what the users wanted(files, forums etc). With the creation of the World Wide Web(not be confused with the Internet) BBS’s saw a quick decline.

    The greatest difference now, is these new online communities are used to collect information on users by large companies or political interests. Also the amount of advertising is noticeably different than back in the BBS days.

    BBSes were generally created in peoples homes, and were usually very simple with the exception of the ASCII artwork which was fairly elaborate sometimes. Real world meetings were encouraged, and often happened at bars or BBQ’s in peoples back yards.

    Now we are faced with large “one stop shopping” type online communities, which one person or company controls. Instead of many local communities that benefited its users. Now we are sent ads tuned to our interests, told what music is new and great, etc etc.

    What is evident is to me is this. Technology accelerated with out a matched acceleration of peoples understanding of how to use it. So instead of citizens truly creating their own space in the virtual world, they left it to a few people who decided to horde the technology to create and guide the virtual community.

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