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What is an online community and who is a part of it?
Online community is a community where people communicate, exchange information, and make business through the internet access. It's the community of all people who can afford to have a computer or have the ability to access the internet. The internet is easy, inexpensive, convenient to use and available to all.
The internet has a low monthly fee that everyone can afford to access. Sometimes they even have free internet access. It is easy to access. Turn the computer on and click one button and one will connect to the internet. The internet is always available to all, even to those who can't afford to have the computer at home, can't afford to pay the monthly fee, or those people who travel around. They can access the internet through the library, school, or even in coffee shops at various cities. There is a library in every city in the U.S. The technology is becoming more and more developed everyday. People can now own a small computer that is transferable, a laptop. They can carry and use it anytime and anywhere they go. People can talk or communicate to as many people as they want, not like telephone where we can only talk to one or two people at a time. It's just as a retired librarian woman said in John Schwartzs article "The American Dream, and Email for All": "I'm a grandmother; I wish some of my friends were online. It's so much simpler than to communicate in person. You just have to sit down and type something" (241).
What do people do on online communities? The internet is very useful in many different ways. John Schwartz stated: "You can pay bills online, find out what is going on at the local high school, get friendly medical advice from a local doctor, or argue about the area's environment issues on local newsgroup in his article "(240). People can use the internet to do school work, get information, communicate, download music and coupons, play games, shop and make business. Many businesses have been successful and are satisfied with the internet access. Through this communication they can make their businesses become more popular and successful. The internet makes their businesses easy for people to find and locate their location, and do business with. Sometimes there are some people are too busy to go out shopping.
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Does everyone have the access or want to access to the internet? Of course not! Not everyone has a computer or access to the internet. Not everyone likes to use the computer or knows how to use it either. Besides, the internet and the computer have been developed just recently. There are many people who are even older than the computer. They don't know how to use computers or might feel they are too old to learn to use them. Some people simply prefer to use other technologies to communicate. The computer is also not available in every country; not every country has the high technology like America does. They are poor countries, poor education, and poor people. They are not educated enough to know how to use the computer or not all people can go to school and it's very expensive to own a computer. They would rather put their money into something else than just buy an electronic thing that just sits in one place. However, things will change. Not all the people have the internet access right now, but they will have soon or later.
That's just like the last century compared to this century. The technology wasn't as high as it is now and will be higher and higher. Not all the people were able to go to school or can afford a computer before, but more and more people can now. Today, almost every single one has email or internet access. Even the small town like Blacksburg, Virginia has 60 percent of the people has email, and 40 percent have full internet access according to John Schwartz's article "The American Dream, and Email for All". And that article is outdated. It was written a while ago, 1995. Maybe the small town has all the people with the full internet access now. Therefore, people will all have computer and internet access or have the ability to use them.
Cyberspace is a virtual community. In the article "Is There a There in Cyberspace", John Perry Barlow argues that even though the "prana is missing", "both breath and spirit", "less spiritual, things are also missing entirely, like body language, sex, death, tone of voiceIn short, most of things that make my life real to me" (164), people can not touch, see, or feel each other in person. However they still can communicate, understand and have feeling what others think or would react to what they are saying on the internet. They can easily to share things that they might not share with the person they already known. In the internet, people do not know each other and probably will never see each other. Thus, they are more comfortable to share their feeling or ideas online than in person. Sometimes, people can even find or talk to different people in the different countries that are all over the world with the same interests or beliefs. The internet benefits people lots, but do all people know how to use them in the appropriate ways? Or how can people make good virtual communities online?
There are too many people on the web. Many different groups of people online and lots of things could happen online as offline communities. How would one know which group would fit them or how to make a good virtual community? As Barlow Bruckman stated "It's a lot harder to find a good virtual community than it is to find a good bar" in the article "Finding Ones Own in Cyberspace" (172). There are so many bad things would happen online that it's hard to find one place that would fit some people. People don't really know who they are communicating with online or what they might say. Online communities are universal communities. There are many different people all over the world who are online. There is freedom of speech offline, so there is even more freedom of speech online. What would it be like if people can say or do everything they want online? There will be a mystery and no one would go online except the ones who are doing or like to do so. Therefore one could design his or her own community adapt to some policies such as admissions, anonymity, and the architecture of electronic space. One would select who could enter or be in the community, even though those things would against some people. One would charge fees for the trivial or rude messages to prevent them to be post. In that way, the people are easy to find their group and do not have to take time to go in and leave or put unwanted message. "Finding Ones Own in Cyberspace" is the article that gives the advice how one could find or make his or her own community. The internet is very easy, inexpensive, convenient to use and always available to all. The internet benefits us a lot today and the technology is developing everyday. Therefore the internet will benefit people more in the future, but people must know to use it in the appropriate ways or how to keep the internet useful. Even though some people do not like to use computer, they still have to use them. For some people who do not know how to use, they can learn how and for those who not have the computer can go to the public library, friend or relative's house to use it. People will get more education later and everyone will have the access to the internet. People just need to use its benefits and make the internet become more benefit.
Schwartz, John. The American Dream, and Email for All. Newsweek 1996.
Barlow, John Perry. Is There a There in Cyberspace. Utne Reader 1995 <www.utne.com/reader/magazine.html>.
Bruckman, Amy. Finding Ones Own in Cyberspace. Compsing Cyberspace 1996.