Saturday, February 2, 2019
Building Community on the Net :: Internet Web Cyberspace Essays
mental synthesis Community on the Net All sorts of reasons have been advanced in recent years to explain the decline of community in America, from the instruction we design our neighborhoods to the increased mobility of the average American to such demographic shifts as the movement of women into the labor force. But the onslaught of television system and other electronic technologies is usually cited as the main culprit. As Harvard sociologist Robert Putnam observes, these technologies are increasingly privatizing our untenanted time and undermining our connections with one another and with our communities.1In his essay The Strange slicing of Civic America, Putnam draws a direct parallel between the arrival of television and the decline of what he calls mixer capital -- the social networks, trust, and norms of reciprocity that are the essence of healthy communities. As he points out, a massive pitch in the way Americans spend their days and nights occurred precisely during t he years of generational civic disengagement.2 It follows that computers, VCRs, virtual reality and other technologies that, like television, cocoon us from our neighbors and communities exacerbate the loss of social capital.With the advent of computer networks and virtual communities, however, some(prenominal) feel that electronic technologies can actually be used to modulate the bonds of community and reverse Americas declining social capital. Advocates stress that electronic networks can befriend citizens build organizations, provide local information, and develop bonds of civic life and conviviality. magic spell the claims are no doubt overstated in many cases, as they always are when new technologies are involved, there is growing designate that this may be the case, particularly in local community networks.The social and political ramifications of electronic networking has become a favorite topic of surmisal in recent years. Cover stories, conferences, books, Web sites, and radio and television programs given over to the subject have grown exponentially. In looking over the burgeoning lit on the political uses of the Net, I find that most of it falls into trey general categories 1) questions of democratic culture and practice, such as the pros and cons of direct democracy, issues of loneliness and social control, and the changing nature of public opinion 2) how on-line petitioning, electronic voting, information campaigning and other forms of netactivism can promote politics more than narrowly defined and 3) the implications of networking technologies for communities. This paper leaves aside the first two categories3 and focuses specifically on the third whether computer networks can be used to prove and enhance the bonds of community.