Virtual Communities' Impact on Politics

Virtual Communities' Impact on Politics

Vasanthi Srinivasan
Copyright: © 2006 |Pages: 5
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-59140-563-4.ch100
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Virtual community (VC) as a concept and reality poses some fundamental challenges to the discipline of politics. First, the term virtual undermines the appearance–reality distinction that runs through Western political thought. From Plato to Marx, political thinkers have decried the cunning with which politicians peddle mere appearances of justice or freedom. Computer-mediated communication (CMC) described as virtual defies this dichotomy between appearance and reality; the virtual is that which appears on the screen and yet is experienced as real and sometimes as more real than real. Live images and opinions from all over the globe, mediated through information and communication technologies shape our experience of politics so much so that what happens outside this media space is regarded as marginal (Castells, 1997, p. 312). Similarly, the communal aspect of VC undermines conventional political communities grounded in territorial unity. In this article, we shall clarify the challenges and opportunities posed by VCs to states and civil societies. For this purpose, only some VCs that explicitly address diasporic nationalisms, globalization, democratization, and transnational activism are relevant. How do such communities extend, modify, or subvert existing political ideas and institutions embodied in the nation, state, democracy, public sphere, and so forth? What are the new rights and virtues that come into play through VCs?

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