Virtually Finding Community in the Third Space

Virtually Finding Community in the Third Space

Samantha Bax
Copyright: © 2006 |Pages: 4
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-59140-563-4.ch113
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The Internet has enabled individuals to communicate across continents and also through temporal spaces, making both place and time irrelevant to these communications. The specific interaction systems utilized for these purposes are referred to as computer-mediated communication (CMC) technologies and encompass electronic mail (e-mail), bulletin board systems and Internet Relay Chat (IRC), to name the most well-known of these technologies. Each of these technologies allows for the gathering of individuals within cyberspace to converse and to exchange information with each other. It is interesting to note that the terms communication and community stem from a Latin word meaning “common,” and thus it can be inferred that communication is a process through which community can be developed (Fernback & Thompson, 1995). Licklider and Taylor (1968), predicted three decades ago that computer networks would become communities, and “in most fields they will consist of geographically separated members …” (online) gathering within a common communication space. Earlier technologies such as the telephone have inspired scholars to state that we now live in a boundless “global village” (McLuhan, 1964). Current CMC technologies have brought about the possibility of numerous people meeting online and conversing with and between each other, allowing for a meeting “space” that consists of abrogated time and place (Fernback & Thompson, 1995), with no boundaries of race, gender or creed. It is from these utopian ideals that the idea of virtual communities has stemmed. The concept of the “virtual community” refers to groupings of individuals utilizing CMC technologies in such a way that they can be likened to communities in the physical world. Rheingold (1993c) states that “virtual communities might be real communities, they might be pseudocommunities or they might be something entirely new in the realm of social contracts” (p. 62). Thus, the question still remains as to whether “virtual communities” can replicate communities that exist in the physical world.

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