BA in ELT

Study Guide 1 VIRTUAL COMMUNITIES

This Study Guide was corrected and formatted by Carlos Raúl López Reátiga in December 2006

©2005 Universidad Autónoma de Sinaloa

BA in ELT

Study Guide 2 VIRTUAL COMMUNITIES

Now take a look at these ideas! Are they similar to yours? All the work described above is slowly creating many pictures of how we can understand cyberspace and virtual communities. But we will not get one picture. The goals and purposes of the work done are too disparate and there are too little cross referencing between the different categories in order to create a solid and well grounded arena for a broad understanding of what is happening and how that will affect our society. All the small pieces are, of course, needed, and we need even more in the future, but we also need attempts were all this knowledge is put into context (if not action). Maybe the history of the Community Networks have some contributions that might be valuable to everybody in the field (Schuler, 1996). More recognition of each others work and a better way of framing and naming important questions is maybe the most important issue today. The naming and framing must be there if we will be able to relate to work in other fields dealing with the same basic question but in a different way. The question of how virtual communities will affect our lives and our future society is a question of such importance that all possible ideas must be explored and examined. There are decision makers, politicians, and citizens out there waiting for guidance on how to approach this new part of our society.

1.3 History Let’s look at some historical aspects. Are virtual communities a new trend? Are they product of the newest changes of technology? What do you think? Remember that it is worth trying!

This Study Guide was corrected and formatted by Carlos Raúl López Reátiga in December 2006

©2005 Universidad Autónoma de Sinaloa

BA in ELT

Study Guide 3 VIRTUAL COMMUNITIES

Virtual communities are dated as far back as to the early seventies (Stolterman, 1996) when the first newsgroups emerged on Internet. At first, these groups consisted of researchers with a common interest in research and also a need for co-operation. At approximately the same time the first multi-user dungeons (MUDs) appeared in Great Britain. A MUD is a virtual world where people play different kinds of roleplaying games in an imaginative environment. They can also associate with other people, exchange ideas etc. 1.4 Earlier research The existing literature about virtual communities is in restricted extent

In the beginning of the eighties, the first opportunities to chat with others in realtime developed. These alternatives are most often text-based, but the technology is developing fast, and getting more and more accessible. Virtual communities will also use the new techniques in the future. Some virtual communities are already using the new techniques by creating web-pages but also Virtual Reality-techniques are becoming more and more common to create simulated environments in virtual communities. empirical. What do exist is anecdotal and narrative literature written by people that

This Study Guide was corrected and formatted by Carlos Raúl López Reátiga in December 2006

©2005 Universidad Autónoma de Sinaloa

BA in ELT

Study Guide 4 VIRTUAL COMMUNITIES

themselves have been members in different virtual communities (Rheingold 1992, Coate 1993, Farmer among others -96). A problem with this lack of material is that these anecdotes will be regarded as general studies although they do not really fulfill such criteria. Therefore I feel there is a need for empirical studies of virtual communities. Some authors are very pessimistic, they believe that the possibility to communicate in cyberspace will lead to a situation where people will spend every free, unoccupied minute in cyberspace and never have "human contact", choose never to meet other people face-to-face. McClellan for example criticize virtual communities for being pseudo-communities, that only seem to have true social bonds, and he also argues that virtual communities will have the same effect as television, by keeping people indoors,

behind locked doors and separated. Studies have shown that some MUDplayers have developed an addiction to the game and screen off the world around (Turkle, 1995). Other writers are more optimistic and believe that virtual communities can enhance people’s lives. Rheingold (1992) for example believe that members in virtual communities are happier than others. Since members of virtual communities have friends that share their interests instead of only sharing haphazard geographical communities with people that one have nothing in common with. It is hard to believe that virtual communities will lead to a world where people spend all their time in front of the computer, since people want variations. They will not settle with only one way to communicate. So far, the discussion on virtual communities

This Study Guide was corrected and formatted by Carlos Raúl López Reátiga in December 2006

©2005 Universidad Autónoma de Sinaloa

BA in ELT

Study Guide 5 VIRTUAL COMMUNITIES

can be separated into two different parties. One party, represented by Rheingold among others, sees magnificent opportunities in the technology that everybody would benefit from using. This approach can be somewhat risky, since it implicates that virtual communities are regarded solely as an alternative to other communication and occupation. As a user we must be aware that the technology affects us, as Mark Slouka states in the netzine FEED (1995) "Technologies both reflect and shape the dominant culture. They can alter our perceptions, redefine our values, and change the very shape and grain of our lives in ways we can rarely predict. ... In short, the notion of choice (or easy choice, anyway) is a myth... Arguing that virtual communities simply add another ingredient to the stew (Which we are free to sample or not), is a bit like arguing that

genetically-altered vegetables simply expand the consumer's option. It's more complicated (and potentially coercive) than that. A lot more." (FEED Dialog, Part Two, p. 5) The more pessimistic part do not only think that the technology affects us, but that it in effect determines human beings. This part express "technological determinism" (Avis, 1995). A lot of people today feel a resignation to the technology and its consequences, and many experiences of technological development are negative, which acts to technology's disadvantage. This of course serves to enhance the negative attitude. Part of the problem are founded in the fact that development makes the technique more and more complex and therefore more difficult to grasp (Talbott, 1995). Talbotts advice is to not let this pessimism and resignation take

This Study Guide was corrected and formatted by Carlos Raúl López Reátiga in December 2006

©2005 Universidad Autónoma de Sinaloa

BA in ELT

Study Guide 6 VIRTUAL COMMUNITIES

overhand. Humans develop and use the technology, and this gives us the opportunity to affect it and it is also our

responsibility to do so, even though the complex nature of technology makes this a very difficult task.

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What have you learned about virtual communities? Are you familiar with the terms used here? Could you add any relevant information about virtual communities? Are there any virtual communities available for you? Are you part of them?

This Study Guide was corrected and formatted by Carlos Raúl López Reátiga in December 2006

©2005 Universidad Autónoma de Sinaloa

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