Society in a Virtual World

Society in a Virtual World

Vaclav Jirovsky (Czech Technical University, Czech Republic)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-61520-891-3.ch003
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The new virtual world created by the Internet, with its attendant new technology environment, new actors and new models of societal behavior, has given rise to unexpected and as yet to be described social phenomena. This chapter guides the reader through virtual communities on the Internet, highlighting behavioral anomalies in the community or individual. The main objective of this chapter is to introduce the reader to basic patterns of behavior which may foster illegitimate use of the Internet, including illegal activity, and security incidents. This survey of virtual communities and the threats they create to Internet security, as well as the behavioral change of individuals when exposed to the virtual world, is intended to give the reader a basis for understanding the virtual world’s impact on mankind and social reality. Such an understanding could be helpful to discern new Internet threats or to assess expected risks.
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The evolution of the human society is characterized by persistent interaction of individuals and communities, which continuously moves the evolution of the mankind forward. Historically, these interactions existed in the physically sensed and observed world. The actors involved in interaction were real persons or groups of persons. Moreover, these interactions were observed and experienced in the physical environment, ie. in the real world. The playing of children on the street was part of growing up and education, improving their sense of the world and creating necessary perceptual apparatus. Individual communication was usually accompanied by some physical perception. The listener sensed not only the speech of a counterparty but also its movement, body position or facial expression. Interpersonal communication was thus comprised of two balanced components – verbal and non-verbal communication or so called “body language”.

With improvement of verbal communication skills and development of new means of human expression, non-verbal communication was becoming increasingly concealed and the first instances of mankind’s existence in the virtual world emerged. For example, book printing gave access to written messages for ever-broader masses. Book stories shifted readers into an imagined world, letting them to share the lives of fictional or historical characters with their own imagination. This one-way communication allows transferal of information only from writer to reader and lack of interaction leaves a vacuum in normal communication involving speech. Nevertheless the individual, separated from society, could spent a pleasant moments in the circle of his imaginary heroes, not communicating with surrounding society.

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