The emergence of online communication modalities also has fostered a new dialogue among scholars as to whether these cyber subcultures are worthy of our attention or whether they are simply ephemeral, imagined communities, too fleeting, too superficial, and too virtual to warrant serious exploration.
Calhoun (1991) argues that the modern condition is one of indirect social relationships in which connectivity with others is more imagined, or parasocial, than real. The medias ability to broaden the range of our experiences creates the illusion of greater contact or membership in large-scale social organizations.
Drawing from the authors current research programs, this essay explores the basic dimensions of online communities and the concomitant need for scholars to rethink the assumptions that undergrid historic paradigms about the nature of social interaction, social bonding, and empirical experience (Cerulo, 1997).
In so doing, we argue that online communities are far from the imagined or pseudo communities explicated by Calhoun (1991); that they are, in fact, real in the very way in which they reflect the changing nature of human relations and human interaction.
It should not be surprising, then, that millions of people throughout the world turn to the Internet to re-create and re-establish the third sphere of conviviality. First, I am so thankful that my wonderful son ____ will continue to shine. Second, when I thank our surgeons, I told them that it will be good to get back to normal. You will be more appreciative for what you have, more empathetic to others, and put more value on how much the support of others means. You will be much, much better for having had this experience. Another example of intimacy which can occur within postings to a newsgroup can be found in message posted by Julies husband to the Acoustic Neuroma group to weeks prior to surgery.
Rheingold (1993), in his book, The Virtual Community, suggests that the logging onto online services and checking e-mail and chat rooms is similar to the feeling the of peeking into the cafe, the pub, the common room, to see whos there, and whether you want to stay around for a chat (p. For him the community was real, he explains, because it was grounded in his everyday physical world. Rheingold attributes the rise of virtual communities to the hunger people have for a sense of community as they struggle with the disappearance of informal public spaces in their lives. In this message, he talks about his wife, his daughter, a grandmother, and some personal thoughts as the family prepares for the surgery.As is often now the case in this age of interactive, online communications, Julie turned to her friends on the Internet not only for emotional support but also for medical advice, particularly from those who had previously had this type of surgery.Several months earlier, she had found the Acoustic Neuroma newsgroup and had become an active member of this cyber-community of individuals hoping to overcome the challenges of a rare form of debilitating brain tumors.(Jones, 1995: 11) Cerulo (1997) writes that in order to effectively study online communities, sociologists and communication researchers must reframe the way in which they view the computer-mediated world and past assumptions about human interactions: Recent developments have touched issues at the very heart of sociological discourse--the definition of interaction, the nature of social ties, and the scope of experience and reality. The traditional stance in sociological analysis, Cerulo explains, is that physical co-presence is the determining factor in judging the significance and quality of a communicative exchange. She started walking last week and we are real excited about that. My wife is pretty resigned to losing her hearing but really doesnt want to lose any facial control. We are going to get family portraits done before surgery so we wont have to worry about what Julie looks like for Christmas cars.Indeed, the developing technologies are creating an expanded social environment that requires amendments and alterations to ways in which we conceptualize social processes. We speak of the closeness and trust born of such mediated connections using terms such as pseudo-gemeinschaft, virtual intimacy, or imagined community, she writes. She is still young and basically doesnt want to go through life that way. I was talking to a co-worker who is in a wheel chair and she was telling me about how many people tell her how lucky she is to be able to sit down all day. (Julie has always worn her hair long, and she doesnt want to have her buzz cut immortalized.) Grandma is coming in a couple days to help take care of us.In the weeks prior to the surgery, daily e-mail created a strong bond between Julie and her new friends.Following the surgery, Julies husband chronicled the ups and downs of her recovery by posting daily updates to the group.According to Oldenburg, an individual moves about through three basic environments: where he works, where he lives, and the place where he joins with others for conviviality.The latter environment, the place of idle talk and banter with acquaintances and friends, is often where the sense of membership in a community is achieved and experienced.Although they transcend the physical and spatial boundaries that have traditionally defined a community, cyber-communities are often a primary form of social interaction for the growing number of individuals who often spend hours each day surfing the net.A growing number of scholars have begun to explore the impact of newsgroups, mailing lists, community networks, and electronic bulletin boards on the participants and the communities they serve.