Description: CYBERCULTURE [noun] the culture that has emerged, or is emerging, from the use of computer networks for communication, entertainment and business. It is also the study of various social phenomena associated with the internet and other new forms of network communication, such as online communities, online multi-player gaming, social gaming, social media and texting.
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While perhaps more suited to cyberculture than ‘community cultures’, this image stood out to me as I had been reflecting on embodiment/disembodiment, and popular narratives which deny the situatedness of online participants. Lister, et. al (2009, p. 217) note:
critical thinking about ‘cyberspace’ should begin with the assumption that it is no more separate from the material world than any other kind of mediated experience and indeed precisely because of its ubiquity may in fact be more seamlessly and intimately stitched into everyday life.
and later (on p. 217), commenting on real relationships which start online:
our engagements with CMC are every bit as embodied and embedded in social reality as our engagement with any other media. The problematic dichotomy only arises when identity and social reality are assumed to be entirely material as opposed to discursive, and when ‘cyberspace’ is assumed to be entirely discursive rather than material.
To connect this with community, and dispersed online community in particular, I need to do a bit more ‘unpacking’. Can one have discourse without materiality, or materiality without discourse? What I mean is, the material world only exists through discourse, in that it is re-made through – or shaped by- the discourse of whomever ‘witnesses’ it (through their cultural lens). Similarly, discourse has to be enacted, or materialised, in order to exist, and presumably, it can’t ‘be’ without something to ‘be’ about. In this, discourse and materiality are ‘co-dependent’, or ‘co-constituent’ (forgive the rambling – this is new thinking for me).
The social and cultural forces I’ve examined here often emerge into stable patterns within a group. It is these stable patterns of social meanings, manifested through a group’s ongoing discourse that enable participants to imagine themselves part of a community.
(Baym 1998, cited in Lister, et al., 2009, p. 215)
Is it fair to construe this as people’s ability to see themselves in a community being dependent on them having a similar discourse about the material? That regardless of their material experience, they need to be open to each other’s discourse of that experience/each other’s experience? I’m tripping myself up, though, in this ontological rabbit warren: this dialogue supposes discourse and materiality are separate. Back to the thinking step..