Community Talk

Dateline: 1/20/99

Every once in a while it's nice to just talk to folks out on the net. Talking anonymously is even more fun! Aimless chat however amusing gets old and boring. The more interesting phenomenon that sometimes grows is the notions of on-line communities. Groups of people with specific goals can really create new software or social movements.

Text chat while certainly the most efficient lacks some of the expressive and emotive power of more graphical oriented chats. 3D virtual environments while still comparatively rare do exist. One of the best places to explore growing developments for 3D chats and on-line communities is via the work of the Contact Consortium. You can get pointers to lots of the on-line software possibilities there and events also.

The key mover and shaker (so to speak) behind these activities is Bruce Damer, who is also the author of the book Avatars!. Recently Damer (via his newsletter) pointed out the existance of a couple of very cool books dealing with on-line communities. The first Cyberville: Clicks, Culture, and the Creation of an Online Town, by Stacy Horn, is a look at the workings of ECHO, a New York-based online community. The other new book is Communities in Cyberspace edited by Marc Smith and Peter Kollock is a collection of papers examining the many of the concepts and controversies of communities on the net.

From my own point of view one of the fascinating things I often encounter in cyberspace is that of gender switching. With a name like Sandy most people assume I'm female. It has given rise to a number of amusing situations which I usually end up announcing something about my hairy chest. The issues of identity and the types of persona one can assume are truly mindbending. For a more scholarly look at these issues you should check out the book Life on the Screen : Identity in the Age of the Internet, by Sherry Turkle.

Speaking of community how about VRML99 (how's that for a segue). There really is no substitute for a little face-to-face talk so register today!

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