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Thr Reality of Internet Communities

Internet communities often function in the same way many other entities function. This is because; like in the “real world� hierarchy is created by man. For example, in the soap opera news group from the readings, a relatively small percentage of group members contributed to the group’s message board more than once. This is true of many organizations both on the web, and outside of it. To back this up, in Greek Letter organizations there are a relatively small percentage of people that “do� the work necessary to keep the organization running. Especially in proportion to it’s total membership. Likewise, this connects to Danah Boyd’s piece as well. Making friends is essential to networking.

That being said however, Boyd and Kiesler seem to disagree on whether or not online networks are different than “real� world networking, both in gaining social capitol, and is assessing if online relationships are trumping real world ones. Kiesler’s article, while outlines how online networks function, seems to me to support the idea that online networks are an outgrowth of natural human norms. That online networking is not unnatural in the least. One can see this in Kiesler outlining of traditions within online groups. This is because tradition (or even ritual) is at the center of any strong organization. If these organizations had no tradition then it would stand to reason that they had no real importance to people. Therefore It is reasonable to state that Kiesler believes there is a possibility that online groups can supplement, or even replace real world social groups.

Boyd on the other hand makes the assessment that online groups are fickle in comparison to real life groups because the term “friendship� is used more loosely online than it is in reality. This is because friendship is necessary to an online group’s existence. This makes online groups farcical because online, one does not have to associate with enemies. Whereas in real life, one must live with, and work with people they despise. Therefore, one can surmise that, according to Boyd, the only way to gain social capitol on the internet is to gain as many friends as humanly possible. By doing so, one will have a humongous network on which to draw.

Personally, I believe both the authors make reasonable points. However, they both are making general assumptions about the internet, and the people that use it. The assumption is that they both have left out the individual equation. The internet is a media tool, and mankind has subscribed, and written into them for centuries, where it was the Federalists and Anti-Federalists arguing government in the newspapers in the 1700’s, or bloggers today arguing for government, people are just looking for intellectual outlets, and the internet is just as good if not better for doing so. And, it allows people to converse, and associate from hundreds of miles away to converse in seconds. That is why the internet has replaced some of out associations with people in modern times. Just as the TV did, and just as newspapers did in the past.


Nice post Richard. I liked your comment relating the internet to Tv and the newspaper from the past. The internet is just a natural extension of media and communication. In the old days, schools used to have PTA meetings, (Parent Teacher Association). Now we all receive emails about our child's progress in school and what events are happening. My kids are in 3rd and 6th grade. They can access the school's server to retrieve their homework assignment if they forgot to bring it home. I would consider any type of network like that an online community.