reading response 11: Virtual Communities

In Howard Rheingold's reading, "The Virtual Community", Howard describes online communities as able to "change our experience of the real world, as individuals and communities."

This phrase really struck me. I am a part of a massive art community known as Deviantart. Unlike Howard, I haven't actually met with many of the artists I've gotten to "know" on deviantart, however, I've made a few "friends" whom I share art with quite frequently. This was a few years ago, and what I find interesting is that usually these "friendships" don't last beyond this art community. So on one level I have to disagree with Rheingold's take on these virtual communities. Sure, it can change our experience for a short period of time. But much like a fad, most of these experiences are short-lived.

However, I definitely have one specific case that disregards the statement I just made. I used to play an online game which I spent a few hours a week playing. I met a few people that I've gotten really "close" to. Which is a weird concept considering the fact that I've never actually met them physically. But I do talk to them online just as normally as I talk to my friends from home (Japan) or people here. I'd like to meet them, but since they are from different places of the world it's just something that is unachievable.

The biggest virtual community as of now seems to be social networking sites such as facebook and myspace. These are slightly different, but like Howard mentions in his reading, there is a lot of political aspects that move people towards action that can be found on facebook. For example, the countless "groups" that we can join sponsored by a company which will donate a certain amount of money depending upon the number of people who join the group. Other groups that lead to real action in real life that I found interesting was the group titled "If 1,000,000 people join this group I will change my name to McLovin". After a while, the goal was achieved and the person who made the group actually went through the legal process of getting his name changed.

So I have to agree that some virtual connections will lead to a change in experience, but a lot of times the agenda of the person in these communities are unrelated to their "real-life" agenda.