Terry Flew, in his chapter on virtual cultures, uses a quaint definition of virtualcommunity by Howard Rheingold (Flew 2002, p. 76), but this project will limititself to define virtual community as
long term, text-based, computer-mediated communication amongst large groups on the Internet.
Flew traces therelationship between this project’s discussion about audiences and theassumptions ‘about the virtues of community, or of the ‘online’ and ‘offline’ worlds(Flew 2002 p. 94)’ claiming that Internet research is very much empirical. If that isso, this means that scholars researching the Internet are much more aware of ideology and how it is manifested online, which is exactly what the governancecycle tries to deal with. Implicitly, Flew argues that because the Internet is ahighly interactive medium with the option for users to be anonymous, political andcommercial ideologies are lucid in these communities. Flew’s conclusion to hischapter on virtual cultures is proof of a point of view that is very much aware of the ideological problem:
‘…the challenge of virtual cultures is the question of how to positively engage with the visible and active expression of difference, heterogeneity, and sometimes incommensuratemoral and social values, as new media technologies developin ways that move such questions from the ‘back stage’ of tothe centre of contemporary politics and culture.’ (Flew 2002, p. 95)
The main motive for Erickson to move away from the notion of virtual communityto what he calls ‘participatory genre,’ is the use of the concept for understandingthe underlying discourse: ‘[g]enre shifts the focus from issues such as the natureand degree of relationships among ‘community members’, to the purpose of thecommunication, its regularities of form and substance, and the institutional,social, and technological forces which underlie those regularities (Erickson1997)’. Erickson does, however, recognize that the concept of genre is limitedbecause ‘whereas most genres have a distinction between producer andconsumer, or author and audience, in on-line discourse the distinction betweenthe producer and the consumer is blurred (Erickson 1997).’Because the concept of genre deals with the underlying discourse of communication on the Internet, it is possible to draw parallels between issuesraised by post-modern scholars, particularly Michel Foucault, and include them indiscussing the nature of the cyber-audience. Since this discussion has mostlybeen focused on political and commercial motives behind audience research andfinding ways to look at audiences empirically, this works well with post-moderntheory, as post modernism is a very useful tool when analysing the language of power that exists in certain events, or texts. It looks at how realities can becreated where ‘truths’ can be stabilised by suspending it in a certain discourse of power upheld by grand narratives.