Wednesday, September 12, 2007

The Consciousness of the Collective Online

Does Anderson take for granted the ability of each member of an imagined community to have “complete confidence in [other members’] steady, anonymous, simultaneous activity” (26). In the physical world, members might not know each other’s names, but they are aware of their bodies filling the space. They see each other, and this is confirmation of their simultaneous existence. But the Internet complicates this by removing the body. Members can no longer see each other, and they are not always aware that there is anyone existing simultaneously on this website or that website. Presence which is often taken for granted in the real world, needs to be represented online. Early on websites introduced counters and guestbooks to record their visitors, but these failed in creating communities because they fashioned websites as motels rather than community centers. The very notion of a “guest” creates the idea of an outsider and does not seek to incorporate the Internet surfer as part of the website. It did not create a steady stream of returning members but a terminal of passing vagabonds. However, the username incorporated Internet surfers into the website by giving them an identity which they could return to in future visits. They were no longer merely visitors but users of a site. Like the real world, there are places on the Internet where people congregate and places people pass through. How important is the notion of identity when it comes to forming an imagined community online? Can an imagined community even exist without the consciousness of the collective?

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