HyperNews Conversations

This page is an attempt to recreate the HyperNews conversations which we had about virtual communities. We are providing this current page in order to preserve these conversations. However, the links and feel of the HyperNews environment will not be represented. This page merely provides the content of our discussions in case the original HyperNews link goes down. This page recreates our conversations about Howard Rheingold's "Slice of Life in my Virtual Community".

Thoughts on Howard Rheingold's "Slice of Life in my Virtual Community"

Base: Virtual Communities Discussion
Date: Sat, 23 Mar 1996 03:05:29 GMT
From: Paul Lefrak

This is our first HyperNews discussion, so here goes... (if you would like to read the article, see our "index" link off of our VC homepage). Anyway, one thing that struck me about the article was how Rheingold seems to see Virtual Communities almost as an end unto themselves. He got involved out of loneliness and desiring a sense of community. That's very different from my own experience in which I've become part of one VC- or several sometimes overlapping VC's - more as a byproduct from using the Internet, particularly email and to a lesser extent, the Web, which came about from using these technologies first and foremost as a communication tool for saving time and labor. For Rheingold, it seems like creation of a VC was his goal, whereas for me, in my political activism, it was a byproduct, but was not the primary goal in using the medium. However, it seems to raise another question, which is: in any mass-communication device, is a virtual community automatically created?

More thoughts on "Slice of Life"

Base: Virtual Communities Discussion
Re: Thoughts on Howard Rheingold's "Slice of Life in my Virtual Community"
Date: Tue, 26 Mar 1996 14:00:39 GMT
From: alscopp@sils.umich.edu (Alaina Scopp)

I found Rheingold's "Slice of Life" article to be very interesting, although there were some things that I wished he would have gone into more detail on. For instance, Rheingold mentioned the first time that he met some of his fellow WELLites in real life. I would have liked to hear how that first face-to-face meeting went - whether or not it was awkward. Considering Rheingold is still part of the WELL, I assume that the real life meeting went well. Although I have not been a part of a virtual community, I think that I would have a difficult time opening up and telling complete strangers some of the most personal aspects of my life. Of course, it's not like you would have to be honest about everything -- you could make yourself out to be whomever you choose. Personally, I would find that to be self-defeating, especially if you enter a virtual community in hopes of meeting new friends. Plus, it's much easier to be honest about yourself than it is to be constantly creating a new persona for yourself. It seems like some major trust violations occur once you start making yourself out to be someone you're not. Of course, that's just my opinion - any other thoughts?

Trust in a V.C.

Base: Virtual Communities Discussion
Re: Thoughts on Howard Rheingold's "Slice of Life in my Virtual Community"
Re: More thoughts on "Slice of Life" (Alaina Scopp)
Date: Tue, 26 Mar 1996 23:30:11 GMT
From: eclasson@sils.umich.edu (Emily Classon)

First let me address my thoughts on Rheingold's article. I found it to be very positive and supportive of virtual communities. He suggests some possible concerns users may have but does not explore them. I agree with one of his points that virtual communities give people an opportunity to meet more people than they might in physical life.

I agree with some of Alaina's points about trust and virtual communities. Many people use virtual communities, like chat lines, to meet other people, to try to find dates, and to communicate with others. People can easily assume alternate characteristics, personalities, genders, nationalities, and ages online. The fact that virtual communities are non-physical allows people the freedom to explore being someone they can't in physical life (without surgery or feedback from society). However, playing with one's identity may cause problems with trust. Then again, on what level can you trust someone you have never met. Can you trust anyone you have met in person either? I guess trust becomes a difficult concept in this environment.

Many of the people I have met through my use of IRC, Internet Relay Chat, have expressed some of Alaina's concerns. I agree that it may not be a good idea to misrepresent yourself if you are hoping to make friends. However, if you will never meet or talk to these people in real life, what harm does it cause? If you are planning on speaking with or meeting any of these people, then you would learn right away what they are.

One thought: How well can you really know anyone?

More on trust in a VC

Base: Virtual Communities Discussion
Re: Thoughts on Howard Rheingold's "Slice of Life in my Virtual Community"
Re: More thoughts on "Slice of Life" (Alaina Scopp)
Re: Trust in a V.C. (Emily Classon)
Keywords: trust
Date: Tue, 02 Apr 1996 23:18:42 GMT
From: plefr@umich.edu (Paul Lefrak)

I guess I see the issue of trust in a VC as similar to issues of trust in "real life" except for two important differences: one would be that we can't view the body language, gestures, etc. that are very critical for people to get a sense of one another. The second would be that there is far more of a tendency for people to make stuff up about themselves in IRC's, muds, moos. But I do think most people enter into these types of VC's knowing that part of the game is to allow that this type of role-playing is allowed or excused. I suppose in the dating networks, this type of role-playing would be frowned upon, but I would think that someone would be pretty naive for someone to be trusting that people they're communicating with in these sorts of VC's are always truthful. For those engaging in "virtual sex," this might be part of the fun. Actually meeting or seeing the person you've... ahem, interacted with might take away from the fun. On the other hand, people use cyberspace to arrange real-life meetings. In these mediums, it would tend to follow, that to misrepresent yourself would be a violation of netiquette.

On the politically centered VC's, where the Internet is used more as a communication tool, trust comes largely as a result of ideological agreement. There are quite a number of people I've never laid eyes on whom I trust. I can say that from reading their messages, hearing them describe certain political phenomenon, being aware of their political activities. That's not to say that my trust is always well-founded. That's true with people I've met as well. But I would feel the same about someone lying to me over the Internet in an activist communication medium, just as I would in "real life."

Limited input on which to make decisions

Base: Virtual Communities Discussion
Re: Thoughts on Howard Rheingold's "Slice of Life in my Virtual Community"
Date: Wed, 27 Mar 1996 15:38:49 GMT
From: cpbowers@sils.umich.edu (Cherie Bowers)

My concern with virtual community is that the medium defines the boundaries of what the interaction can be. For example, I can not shake someone's hand electronically. I can't feel if this person's hand is cold and clammy or warm and full of working class calluses. Virtual communications limits the sensory input I get to use to base my assessment of someone. I have a harder time judging sincerity, personality, and sense of humor. How many times can people type "LOL" without it sounding like a cliche? I want to hear how someone laughs. Is it really embarrassing? Does the person snort up their nose? Or are they the type that opens their mouth, shakes their shoulders, but no sound comes out? I think virtual communications are terrific -- they open up our world. But, I am more careful about the information I share with someone I have never heard laugh.

This document was created and is maintained by the Virtual Communities group in Howard Besser's ILS 604 class (Winter 1996).