The Pseudonym discusses the effects of technology on communities, how they’re formed, maintained and where they exist.
The term “community” has, in many respects, changed dramatically in recent years. This has primarily been due to technological innovations, which allow physically distant people to communicate and interact in more involved ways.
A hundred years ago, one’s community was restricted to the area around them; the people you interacted with were all in one place – most likely, all in one town. Sure, you could send a letter to someone in a neighboring area, but that would take a great deal of time, and you would need to know the person, or it would be really strange (imagine writing a personal letter to a completely random address). With the advent of the telegraph, and then the telephone, this became much easier. Interaction was instantaneous and allowed for quick feedback, thereby replicating in-person interactions.
Instant messaging and video chat creates an entirely different dimension of interaction, and allows people to have a back and forth as if having a conversation in person. With instant messaging, you can literally stay in a virtual “place” for hours – essentially opening yourself up to conversations with friends, as you would if you were sitting in a communal area. The internet has provided an immense framework, not only for interaction with prior relations, but for interactions with those who share similar interests, mindsets, etc. With a phone, you have a specific number you can call to keep in touch with previous contacts. With the advent of Chat Roulette, for example, you can contact and interact with someone who you have never met before.
Unlike previous technologies, which are useful for maintaining one’s community, the most recent developments have allowed people to create communities. In the computer program, “Second Life”, users can create avatars through which they can quite literally live a second life. The “Second Life” world is incredibly expansive and intricate and is becoming even more detailed. With these capabilities, literal space is no longer necessary in creating community, but a more metaphorical space certainly is. When you log in to Facebook, it’s analogous to entering a room. There are people – your friends – with whom you can communicate. It is a common space, which provides the means to communicate.
Whether or not this is the right direction – whether it leads to greater happiness and satisfaction – is a question I’ll leave to you, but it definitely provides more choice to the individual. One can interact with anyone in the world instantaneously with nothing but a computer and an internet connection.
Do you think technology has impacted the notion of “community”? How so?