Is The Virtual Community Of Any Value? If So What Are The Advantages Of Online Discussion Forums Over Real Society?

1306 words - 5 pages

There are some that raise warnings about the 'hype' surrounding the recent exponential growth of the Internet. They rightly observe that high promises were heard concerning previous media's potential for vastly improving education, accessibility of knowledge, and human community. They are correct to be cautious, but I feel that they also miss the vital differences between this medium; i.e. the Internet, and prior media. This is mainly due to the fact of media audience sizes and the widespread availability of information. That is the Internet has an infinitely larger audience over printed media due to the fact of uncensored world-wide access which have vastly improved uptake of knowledge.On this topic there is a lot of talk about how, for example virtual communities could be said to be replacing real community. And how computer networks isolate us from one another, rather than bring us together. This could be illustrated by how the analogy of sitting around a table and talking is becoming less and less common as the information superhighway is now constantly bombarding us with information, and less importance is being levied on personal interactions.But the questions have to be asked; is this way of looking at computer aided discussion forums the case for most of us? Would the table discussion be able to exist if it were not for the computer aided discussion forums available currently? Would I find this if I were to switch off my computer and walk outside? I think not. It looks to me like people are flocking to online meetings due to a lack of such in their real, face to face social lives.It seems as though the blocks of free self-expression are removed in online discussion forums. And elements that make for more accurate expression are more present. These are time to think, no negative reinforcement staring us in the face, and the tools of writing that can make us feel more confident and free to say what we really think as the members of the discussion are not limited by the expressions on the others faces nor do they feel the need to please.There are truly no simple technological solutions to social problems, and the most important interactions in life happen between people and not computers. The point is however to explore how computer aided discussions can make possible further communication between people, or create the possibility for some interaction where there could formerly be none at all.It is obvious that it is healthier to take a walk than to sit at a keyboard, reading about exercise. The point is that there are times when physical life does not afford us the scope to experience something in the flesh, for example a walk around the moon, but over the Internet people can visit sites that allow for virtual tours to take place.Similarly it seems obvious that it would be better to talk to an expert face to face than in an online forum, the fact remains that computer aided discussion forums offer an alternative way to experience something...

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