Communities within communities

According to Merriam-Webster, a “community” is a group of people with a common characteristic or interest living together within a larger society. This definition provides no clarification as to if “living together” literally means physically living together or simply spending a great deal of time with one another in any given space. Therefore, I think it’s hard for one to argue that community doesn’t exist online; especially now, with all of the endless amounts of specialized spaces and forums that different types of people use to connect with individuals with similar interests. Second Life, Facebook, ESPN.com and many other online forums all provide a way for individuals with common interests to communicate with one another and share thoughts, ideas, etc.

There are numerous examples that blatantly show communities being formed online and individuals digitally aligning for a common cause. Whether these community formations and connections are a good thing or a bad thing is debatable, but I think it’s safe to say that the internet is indeed helpful to the idea of community; there are entirely too many successfully created communities to deny that fact. The article from “Wired.com” shows how all types of communities can be created; both good and bad. Furthermore, the article on this website shows how, just as in real life, there is a possibility for actual tension between communities in the digital world. Throughout most of the article, we see a tension between the disruptive Patriotic Nigras and various other Second Life communities who wish to simply be left alone. The Patriotic Nigras band together for a common purpose against other groups, and vice versa, other groups band together to fight back against the Patriotic Nigras. Again, this is evidence of community as groups with shared interests are coming together in a space for a common purpose.

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 Just as in real life however, even communities with a common purpose can show tension. The website talks about how there is even tension within the community of “griefers” themselves. “Patriotic Nigras, /b/tards all, look on the somewhat better-behaved Goon community — in particular the W-Hats, a Second Life group open only to registered Something Awful members — as a bunch of uptight sellouts” (Dibbell 2). Again here we see that even communities within communities can be formed. Eve n though to some they can be considered bad communities, the fact of the matter is that they’re indeed defined as communities, thus proving that the internet is useful in aiding these formations.

The Eating Disorder article is the act same way. There are so many websites online that both speak for and against unhealthy eating habits. Which community, the pro-unhealthy eating habits or the anti-healthy eating habits groups, individuals choose to side with is up to them, for our purposes, again, I think it’s important for us to recognize that each are actual communities within themselves; housing individuals with commons interests and common goals all strengthened with the help of the digital world. Mccabe’s article sites a quote from another source stating that, “The interactivity, anonymity, and perceived credibility of Web sites create a powerful means of persuasion for those who access them” (Mccabe 3). This quote just attests to the power that the digital world truly has in regards to community formation.

The following image is from a “Pro-ana” website which refers to the promotion of the eating disorder anorexia nervosa.

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To conclude, I think Baym’s article does a great job of really showing the benefits of these online communities. As we know, it is so easy for interactions to occur and actual relationships to be formed; all of which can transition back and forth, online to offline. In regards to community, Baym’s article also speaks about the idea of shared identities; which essentially is what I’ve been speaking about throughout this entire post. Online communities, being a place where people with similar goals and interests can come together, incorporate this idea of shared identities. Baym states that shared identities, “include personalities and roles assumed by individuals”. It also says that, “Identities also include a shared sense of who “we” are that may be pre-existing or develop within a group” (Baym 7). All in all, this just supports much of what was talked about in that Dibbell article on “Wired.com”. In regards to the Patriotic Nigras, members looking alike, black skin, afro, and suits, all seem to assimilate into these pre-existing identities.  

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New mediums = new opportunities

Do digital contexts alter the way we relate to one another romantically? Of course they do! I’ve seen people use any and every means of socialization to relate romantically, or “flirt” with one another. From social media sites, to video chatting programs, and even to YouTube comment sections, people will use any possible means to interact with others; often with a seemingly heightened sense of confidence as well. Now while I do think these digital contexts are in fact offering new ways to express the relatively same relationships, I feel like the comfort level or “boldness” that social media outlets allow have the potential to slightly alter some relationships and interactions. It’s comparable to the stereotypical “drunk” flirty guy (or girl) who socializes in a lot less conservative manner than they typically would.

One issue that is often debated related to the new means of interaction is whether or not certain mediums are appropriate places to say and do certain things. Gershon refers to this concept when the discussion about media ideologies arise. According to the article, media ideologies are one’s “beliefs about how a medium communicates and structures communication.” It is “people’s understandings of how e-mail, phone, instant messaging (IM), and other media add important information to the message.” One example that the article gives of this is the classic “no-no”, never text a breakup. Some other things that people say are typically not great things to send via text message are located at the following link:

http://thoughtcatalog.com/2011/the-top-10-things-you-shouldnt-text/ and the briefly and the first picture presented

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It’s obvious that these pictures serve to show what are and are not socially acceptable means of relaying certain points and messages, but in a way, the point that I think needs to be understood is that whether acceptable or not acceptable, the fact of the matter is that with every new medium that is created, another space for one to connect with another is created. “Unwritten rules” for these spaces may be placed into effect, but like the Brookey and Cannon article states, “cyberspace is thought to liberate the subject from the embodied constraints of RL (real life).” This not only applies for just cyberspace, but for all digital mediums available. People are going to use whatever means available to say and do whatever they please. Like I said before, digital, non-face-to-face- mediums make for a lot more comfortable individual.

Lastly, the Gross article points out a few of the tendencies regarding mainstream media. Too often we as society and those who use mainstream media regular may undervalue the internet the power it truly has. Gross’ article discusses how the internet and other mediums can create new communities and new ways to connect with one another. This ties right back in with discussion we had earlier with the first two articles.

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“Playing Between Worlds”

Hampton’s article presented a very nice study about how the use of wireless internet in public spaces affects the potential for offline social interaction or relationship building. This article shows multiple images of people sort-of, “in their own world”, doing their own thing, on their mobile devices. In most cases, and speaking from experience, when people opt to bring their mobile devices into a public space, they typically desire to be left alone so they can tend to whatever work or business they’re conducting online. A great quote regarding this idea that stuck out to me came from the caption under the picture on page three. It stated that, “Cell phone and wireless Internet users are less attentive to their surroundings, even in response to unexpected stimuli (like loud noises), than are users of media like books and music” (Hampton 3). In other words, mobile users are capable of blocking out any distractions around them and focusing on their screen and their screen only.

Now if someone really has something to complete or accomplish online, their ability to block out surrounding distractions is a good thing, right? What made me laugh after reading that Hampton caption was the fact that, us as mobile users really aren’t as good at blocking out distractions as we think we are. Take this picture of the average college student’s work area during a long night of studying for example:

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We may be able to become less attentive to our offline surroundings, but in this day and age, our online surroundings often get the best of us. For me, Twitter, and the social interactions that occur via the forum, are too often that culprit.

But going back to this online vs offline thing, overall, it seems as if the underlining argument is that internet and online media use makes it difficult to build community and connect with others. As we have discussed in class and seen first-hand already by playing around with Second Life, connecting with others virtually really isn’t that difficult at all. Taylor’s article gives an excellent explanation for this towards the end of the writing. The key to managing online verses offline reaction is to “play between worlds” as the article puts it. The article states that “Playing EQ is about playing between worlds-playing, back and forth, across the boundaries of the game and the game world, and the ‘real” or non-literal game space. It is about the moves we make between the corporeal and the “virtual”” (Taylor 10). With this in mind, I think it’s safe to say that offline space and perceptions may affect the way we relate to one another online, however to what affect it may have is totally up to the individual and how they are able to “play between worlds” and balance that “back and forth”.

Now as we’re coming to a close, it wouldn’t be right if we didn’t play a little “devil’s advocate” or examine the view point of the “other side”; the “rebels”. According to Laura Portwood-Stacer’s writing, there actually are a few people who, for one reason or another, opt to remain offline instead of  joining the trending online use. The article quote another article from CNN.com. It is as follows: “The holdouts are everywhere – and many are not the technophobes you might think. […] Many are making a social statement by not joining” (Portwood 13).

Portwood calls this type of resistance to participation “media refusal”. The article cites many different examples of media refusal, whether it be smart phones, television, or social sites like Facebook. Apparently, there are people whose abstention from Facebook is actually a deliberate, “performative act”, as the article puts it. In other words, there are people who actually refuse media to try to make a point….which is pointless in my opinion. The list of reasons why people may choose to do this is endless. One reason the article gives is family related; for example-setting purposes. It will be interesting to discuss in class what some of the other reasons for media refusal could be.

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Don’t Judge Me

“Please don’t judge me. Cuz I won’t judge you. Cuz it could get ugly. Before it gets beautiful”

… Anyone else know that song? Chris Brown? Don’t Judge Me? No? … *crickets*

Maybe… maybe not.

Ok, so the very first thing that instantly popped in my head when I began reading the Goffman article yesterday is the old quote that we all have heard a gazillion time, “Don’t judge a book by its cover”. That led to this old picture popping in my head. 

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Appearance and visual cues

The picture above attempts to “call out” what we as humans do on a daily basis; judge. Too often we make summary judgments about an individual solely based off of their appearance. Is that fair? Who knows? One thing that I do know, however, is that it’s natural. I’ve accepted the fact that 10 times out of 10, when someone is meeting me for the first time, they automatically formulate in their head what kind of person I probably am.

So knowing that I’m always going to be judged, there are a few things that I have decided that I must be mindful of when meeting new people; especially in a business setting. Appearance, visual cues, and non-verbal cues are all critical when interacting with other people. The article touches on the idea of non-verbal cues on page 4 when presenting “two kinds of communication-expressions given and expressions given off” (Goffman 4) . These two items are important in interaction and are key drivers behind the summary judgments I spoke of earlier. Non-verbal cues are rather easy to pick up in the real world, however in the virtual world, they’re essentially impossible to discover.

So what does this tell us about virtual interaction? In my opinion, I just think it means that online, we’re pretty much forced to spend a longer amount of time around another person, or avatar, before we’re able to make a comfortable summary judgment about them. (Because like I said earlier, judging is natural and it’s always going to get done regardless of the medium we do it in.)

Virtual interaction and character examination online are all going to come down to your avatar’s appearance, and more importantly, its behavior. Behavior was one of the key areas of focus in the Yee and Bailenson reading. What was interesting however, was how the reading seemed to reroute and reverse the importance of behavior examination from perceiver-to-target towards the target-to-perceiver. This all occurs along with the process of “behavioral confirmation”.

“Behavioral confirmation is the process whereby the expectations of one person (typically referred to as the perceiver) cause another person (typically referred to as the target) to behave in ways that confirm the perceiver’s expectations” (Yee 2).

The idea of behavioral confirmation centers around the whole idea that sometimes people act as who they’re constantly told they are. While this surely isn’t true 100% of the time, it does still happen. It’s going to be interesting to see if this phenomenon will be evident in Second Life.

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