Community… Latin…noun… from communis, meaning fellowship, community of relationships or feelings.
(The compact edition of the Oxford English Dictionary, 1971)
The urban sociologist Ray Oldenburg in his Great Good Place talks about the gathering places where the members of a community hang out for the pleasure of good company and conversation. What he calls great good place is the local bar, bistro, tavern, café, coffeehouse, bookstore, hair saloon etc, a place which is neither the home nor the workplace but is “remarkably similar to a good home in the psychological comfort and support that it extends” and is “…the heart of a community’s social vitality, the grassroots of democracy…”
Today, however, many of those places serve neither coherent communities nor emphemeral relationships among relative strangers. Moreover, many people in the Western world are receiving a sense of community and great good place from cyberspace.
But can good places‘ important function toward forming communities be found in cyberspace ? The fact is that the emphemeral relationships among relative strangers is found in internet communities too. Furthermore, they “can reproduce many of the characteristics of face-to-face communities: they offer support, empathy, and an environment in which members can develop a sense of belonging and social identity. In addition, online groups often have social structures found in face-to-face society, including culture, norms, sanctions, and reciprocal relations.” Real-life status criteria are also not entirely absent online, though online communities can interact ignoring differences such as race, gendre, class etc.
Though virtual spaces are important and vibrant, they cannot be compared with the physical meeting places because a real life “great good place” involves the environment and the physical presence. And face-to-face is a powerful and effective tool of communicating in ways that written communication cannot match. It is essential to a person’s sense of well being and is deeply hostile to the dark side of individualism. Besides, claiming a great good place “as existing ‘in cyberspace’ is misleading , because the cyberspace does not exist as a distinct, separate realm from the real life, but forms a complementary relation with the later“.
Nevertheless, internet can be thought as an open access to knowledge, public collaboration and public self-expression. As for me personally, the very essence of the internet is the access to cultures and interesting, thinking people from around the world. Those people that make me better able to understand the other, everytime I return to the real world, I would like to invite to a real life ” great good place” to enjoy a bottle of wine along with tasty treats, laughter and great conversation.
ΓΙΑ ΕΛΛΗΝΙΚΑ ΕΔΩ