Anarchy and Hierarchy, by A. Griscom

Digital Media and the Internet

The Virtual Community

The utopic feeling of "all-at-onceness" which hypertext has the capacity to promote can be at once unifying and alienating. With the publication of his book on the subject in 1993, Howard Rhiengold put the term "virtual community" on the map. His book focused on one of the chief benefits of the online conferencing systems --- they can restore a sense of community to a society that's been feeling alienated and alienated and disempowered by its lack. These types of distributed communities may be largely responsible for preserving democracy on the Internet. Within unexclusive, heterogeneous virtual communities members continually inform and challenge each other in general, perpetuating a commitment to the interchange of ideas and prevent ideological tyranny.

Mike Godwin, an outspoken member of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, (an organization spearheaded by John Perry Barlow which is dedicated to preserving the First and Fourth Amendment rights within cyberspace, suggests the following guidelines for virtual community development, which he contends, we should start actively developing now He based these parameters on his own virtual community, WELL (Whole Earth 'Lectronic Link):

1- use software that promotes good discussions (i.e. that makes receiving and retrieving postings--even archival--simple.

2-don't impose length limitations on postings, (as some servers do to 25 lines).

3- frontload system with talkative, diverse people. decrease online charges for a group of people who are committed and proficient at facilitating discussions--incendiators, not monitors.

4-Let users resolve own disputes.

5-Allow institutional-size memory so that there will be no problem preserving archives.

6-Promote continuity--re. membership treatment, and long-term members

7-Be host to particular interest group.

8-Provide places for children

9-Confront members of the community with crisis (i.e. LambdaMOO's cyberspace rape) for which, together, they will need to arrive at a solution in the democratic way ("On the Edge of the Virtual City," 98).

Virtual communities need to rely on heterogeneity to create some state of overall equilibrium in a system of checks and balances. But heterogeneity is by choice --- to create a dynamic forum of greater intellectual activity --- a place where everyone who loves a challenge can practice her powers of persuasion in a effort to prove herself or sway others, and maybe even modify her own stance. But heterogeneity is not meant to cause destructive strife. The beauty of it is: when things become unpleasant in one section of the Internet, it is remarkably easy to move some place different in the service of peace. Therefore, a "live and let live" attitude accompanies the absence of police or litigious regulation.

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