Computer Mediated Communication

CMC is an extremely active folklore space, in which social and cultural forces operate and register. While the folks in CMC may have nothing in common except access to a computer and correlates of that access, together they appropriate the possibilities offered by commonality and individuality in ways that weave them into distinct communities. (Dorst, 1991).3 Social realities are created through interaction as participants draw on language and the resources available to make messages that serve their purposes.

"CMC will not so much take us forward but return us to something we have lost." (Rheingold, 1993).5 Rheingold appeals to a nostalgia for community and argues that CMC can enable community not only better than we do now but better than when we had "authentic" communities at some mystical point in the past. In somewhat narrower terms, CMC can revitalize "the public sphere" and hence democracy by creating an electronic agora, an international town hall meeting--metaphors hearkening to the "birthplaces" of, respectively, Western (Greek) and North American democracy.(Rogers, 1997).6

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The Internet and subculture

Observers of "cybertech" culture have argued that the PC and the Internet are not only products of the military industrial complex, but are tools that emerged from the countercultures of the 1960s and 1970s, designed for empowerment and grassroots activism. Their origins are not singular, their uses are not predetermined. While it has been quoted to the point of becoming cliché, Gibson's line that "the street finds its own uses for things" has some validity. As Douglas Rushkoff documents, computers are being used by oppositional subcultures who combine them with drugs, fractals, music and neoshamanism in order to resist dominant ideologies and construct new realities.6

Boundless society

"Cyberspace has the potential to not only change the economic structure of human societies but also overthrow the sensorial and organic architecture of the human body."(David Tomas, 1991)6

Rogers argues that The erasure of various types of boundaries--social, cultural, and geographical--can be interpreted and evaluated in several ways. It can be understood as empowering, the ultimate extension of the human nervous system, the transcendence of geography and space as taken-for-granted limitations on human existence. Conversely, it can be understood not as liberating, but as the ultimate mechanism of control: telecommuting, for example, not only saves one from having to go to work, it means that work and the corporate structure invade one's home, privacy and family life. In another vein, the erasure of boundaries can be seen as the transcendence of culture, the uniting of humans by increasing cross-cultural communication and understanding or as the ultimate tool of cultural imperialism, infusing all cultures with a healthy dose of Western digital logic.

Postmodernism and Internet culture

Life in cyberspace provides utopian promise.

" In a society rife with discrimination, CMC offers a new kind of public sphere where everyone can speak without being judged by their bodies--color, sex, age,(dis)ability."(Rheingold, 1993).

Postmodernists often celebrate the idea that everything is image, everything is text, unconstrained by any sense of an underlying, fixed, constraining "reality." Reality itself is multiple and indeterminate. There is no anchor, no foundation upon which reality, identity or any social order rests. CMC offers the possibility of the "free play" of image and identity that postmodernists often promote in the abstract.

Instead of the "ontological untrustworthiness of cyberspace"as mentioned by Rheingold that "the authenticity of human relationships is always in question in cyberspace because people can misrepresent their "real" identity." some postmodernists might see it as a liberation from the constraints of ontology--from the fixed, essential characteristics (race, sex, age, ability) posited by science and other modernist discourses.(Rogers, 1997)6

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