User:Lieven Van Speybroeck/Reading/Theory/Fernback The Individual within the Collective

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Notes on Jan Fernback's Virtual culture: identity and communication in cybersociety – chapt II The Individual within the Collective

  1. Central questions:
    • How is collectivity in cyberspace jusxtaposed against individuality?
    • How is cyberspace used as a public space and what does this mean for the collectivity?
    • How are anarchy and dissent dealt with among the collectivity of computer-mediated communication (CMC) users?
  2. On (cyber)space:
    • [...] space is not matter, but a set of culturally bound relations as well as an empirical construction. Urry (1985)
    • The development of electronic communication technologies has abrogated space and time such that we live in a boundless "global village" with "no sense of place". (~McLucah & Meyrowitz)
    -> widespread use of CMC made re-examination of our concept of space necessary.
    • Cyberspace is popular culture: a pixelated mirror of everyday life and all it's 'features'
  3. Users as consumers:
    • Our participation in public life has been reduced to our media consumption
    • Television as the main tool for mediaconsumption (passive consumption)
  4. Openness of cyberspace:
    • Only rules are social propriety and "netiquette"
    -> Flaming and virtual harassment ("dark side of CMC")
    • Nature and limits of public space ~ seventeeth-century coffee houses of Britain/salons Paris/...
    • Cyberspace offers a surrogate for an authentic socially democratic public realm that in the 'real' world exists nowhere
    • Cyberspace is both public and private
  5. The term 'community':
    • Both material and symbolic dimensions
    • Notion of community us dynamic and evolves as society evolves
    • Rheingold (1993): Virtual communities as social aggregations that emerge when people carry on discussions
    - long enough
    - with sufficient feeling
    - to form personal relationships
    • Ideologically cyberspace communities offer a platform for free speech, individualism, equality and open access
    • Volatility of virtual 'membership' to communities: log on, log off
  6. Collective versus individual
    • Some negative viewpoints:
    Sennet: community as a form of destructive gemeinschaft, where emotional relations between people take precedence over collective action.
    Dewey: absence of individuality that can operate within the community. The individual's full potential cannot be realized without the context of the community to guide it.
    Etzioni, Tipton, Bellah a.o.: individuals can subvert hyper-individualistic, selfish tendencies in favor of realizing the benefits acting responsably within a moralistic, transcendent order.
    Jones: no one medium/technology has been able to provide crucial elements as empowerment, political action, moral, social order..., in combination.
    -> communities of interest as aggregations of self-interested, self-seeking individuals who join together to augment individual good: communities degenerate into lifestyle enclaves
    -> the paradox of meaning in community
  7. 'Threats' to virtual communities
    • Things like copyright infringement, censorship, limited access only for 'technological elite' counteract with the ideals of openness (~ read: virtual communities)
    • CDA: appliance of censorship on the internet -> legal disputes regarding freedom of speech/expression
    • Providers acting as 'publishers/editors' of fora hosted on their servers. In some cases (nudity, sexuality) censorship approved by law.
    • Behavior that is not conform the 'netiquette' can ruin the whole CMC environment for all (flame wars, propaganda, spam) -> censorship
    • Hacker ethic: a countercultural activity against privatisation of the CMC collective and for democratization of cyberspace.
    -> unique position within online communities: both rebels and protectors of civil liberties and democratic right to openness and freedom