[unrev-II] Rethinking the Virtual Community -- Part 1

From: Jack Park (jackpark@verticalnet.com)
Date: Thu Dec 21 2000 - 11:50:01 PST

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    "The virtual community is the long-sought but almost-never-found New
    Jerusalem that's touched the hearts and minds of some of the nicest, most
    ethical people who've ever gone online. Freenet, mailing lists, MUD's,
    Usenets and IRC's and IM and (even P2P) systems have mushroomed over the
    years, but the Virtual Community was supposed to be a different kind of
    space, a way to use the Network to connect people, to help them know and
    sustain one another in previously inconceivable ways.

    Although almost everyone who has spent much time online has occasionally
    experienced this sense of community, it's generally proven impossible to
    maintain in an ongoing or large-scale way, for either individuals or sites.
    An ideal sought in part by 60s refugees trying to keep their societal dreams
    alive was done in by the Internet's unexpected success, by the changing
    economics of cyberspace and by vocal bands of articulate and aggressive

    One of the articulate prophets for that new kind of place was Howard
    Rheingold, a WELL mainstay and author of The Virtual Community, the book
    that laid out the yearning for a humanistic virtual community, rather than
    one purely technological or informational. The WELL, more than any other
    virtual space, has evoked the possibilities of a wired community whose loyal
    citizens meet, argue with, support and befriend one another in their work
    lives, their personal struggles, even in their deaths. From the first --
    perhaps by dint of the particular geographic, political and cultural cast of
    the people who launched and inhabited it -- the WELL was unique. It still
    is. Despite the stunning growth of the Net and the Web, there has never been
    an online place like it. Increasingly, it seems there never may be. "

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