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ROMANIAN VIRTUAL COMMUNITIES

bannermediie.GIF (1637 bytes)

bannermediie.GIF (1637 bytes)
bannermediie.GIF (1637 bytes)

The final goal of this article being rather descriptive, I consider that the theoretical notions should not employ a very detailed debate. It is enough to underline the fact that, in principal, we designate a "social group" as a system of individuals connected by interpersonal relations, the system itself being identified by the parts its component beings play. In the same way, it is also necessary to remind that we denominate as a "social institution" the social group whose members share the same specific purpose and therefore act accordingly, with their specific means and techniques, in order to achieve it.

Naturally, the configuration of such groups is a process the investigator intuits, most times, from the combination of several casual relations and he implicitly admits as positive their truth-value. Starting from here, any indication showing that a group is forming in our days becomes a precious one. That is also what explains the foregoing interest of the foreign scientists for such tendencies on the Internet. The research made by the social sciences, - anthropologic, folkloric and even philosophical - have already sent important tentacles on the Web, and reached up to definitions and peculiar forms, even if sometimes disputable.

The virtual communities defined as "social aggregations generated on the Net when an enough number of people conduct, for enough time, those public discussions, implying enough human feelings so that to form nets of personal relations in cyberspace". (Reingold, H. (1993). The virtual community).

But this is normal to happen when we are dealing with a communication environment radically different from what we are familiar with. The adjustment made in order to understand it, the adaptation of the theoretical apparatus are not to be done effortlessly. A quite concluding example is the report of an American folklorist, in JAF/1996, who has noticed the expanding sincerity, close to unconsciousness, of his informers from a discussion list compared with the general atmosphere from a research casual on-site.

Such an event may seem out of sight to us, especially when considering the circumstances that we, most of the interested ones, are dealing with - and I am referring to researchers or budgetary professors –; we are not even far, but isolated from this reality called Web. Certainly, there are various solutions to sponsorship the research on such a location; actually, it is rather possible that the eventual sponsors may consider the notion of "Internet" a lot more familiar that the one, let’s say, of "folkloric syncretism" and this from economic reasons as well. Only that it is highly unlikely for a scientist to think out a plan for the supply of funds on the research of an object completely unknown to him.

In such circumstances, I take advantage of my hybrid situation to observe, as often as I am given the public chance, the existence and the importance of the Romanian social groupings of this kind. How may we define the virtual Romanian communities? Due to the fact that nor the citizenship, nor the birth certificate, nor any other conventional methods seem to be of much help, we shall define the Romanian communities as "the virtual communities using the Romanian language".

Why? Because all the others are, usually, unspecific – the children from IRC, who speak English, could tell you quite the same (of course, you have to take my word for that; yet, I would like to receive a disapproval);

the communities of a specific language (the English might be considered as lingua franca of the Net) are making use of this language for identification as well and many times its peculiarities are a topic of discussion themselves, even of vehement arguments (see the problem of the diacritics, for instance);

because the way of using a language determines specific parts in such an environment – and we must underline that, inhere, the graphical linguistic sign has a very special signification, as it is the unique instrumentality of the meaning (at the origins, at least);

finally, because adopting a language implicitly imposes conclusive cultural elements for that certain culture, elements supposed to determine the dynamic of the interpersonal relations defining the group.

And it seems not be enough for this mean of communication we are talking about to be a new one - in forms and consequences - but it keeps revealing itself in shades more and more different and more difficult to trace. Let’s see some of them, presented from the technical point of view:

  1. news groups
  2. discussion lists
  3. mud and mush
  4. irc
  5. other kinds of chat

 

  1. Among the news groups that are wandering on the Web, a community of a remarkable vitality and longevity, one of the former ways of communication the computer intermediates as well, even if sometimes makes use of a brutal language difficult to stand, is SCR. This is, chronologically speaking, the first compact Romanian group of communication.
  2. In the case of the discussion lists, "Romanians" takes the first place; it is probably the most venerable discussion list, which has now reached the impressive number of 900 members. In time, it generated several other derived discussion lists, which are mostly professional ones, aiming for the statute of social institution; some of them might even reach it some day. There are some professional lists, directed to programming, computing, politics (this group was the most determined to turn into an institution), culture, literature.
  3. We are constantly deploring the total absence of a Romanian MUD, or of a MUSH, but it should be mentioned that these are constructed, most times, around a novel, the atmosphere of which the members of the group are trying to preserve. So far, our fellow citizens don’t seem to have found such a novel. The MUSHes with a professional objective, the sort of "conference on-line", are still to be mentioned, but the native Romanian speakers have not shown any preferences for them yet.
  4. Another potential Romanian community could be considered the increasing presence of the Romanians on IRC, but this fact does not fit in our definition of Romanian speaking community. Still, under a certain age, the frequency of native Romanian speakers is continuously increasing, compared with the presence of the adults in other environments.
  5. We interlarded also this category (other kinds of chat) as the discussion on-line becomes, for various reasons, more widely appreciate. That is why, even if such modalities - wherein we include the transmission of sound or image in real time - are economically out of reach for us, they are to be considered, especially when noticing the special attraction exploited on teenagers and children.

What might be our points of concern when doing a research about these Romanian communities? O provisory list of interests could be drawn as follows:

  • first of all, how do they startup and which are the gravitational centers of such groups’ emergence, as one cannot say that there is necessarily a social group where is a news group or a list.
  • what defines them, in comparison with similar ones: the typology of the recurrent topics, the typology of the conflicts (flame wars)
  • if there are differences between a Romanian cybergroup, one speaking another language and the heterogeneous one, whose members communicate in English
  • which are be the peculiarities of the used language in such circumstances. A presence between writing and reading, the miming of orality.
  • which are be the differences between the Romanian speakers from Diaspora and the ones from home (possibly the ones educated during communist years or post-revolutionary)
  • at what extent such a group is aware of the process of ritualization? What does it preserve from the thesaurus previous to cyberspace, what modifies, imports, invents and how is the symbolized under such circumstances
  • if the group has any kind of religious life

and so on.

One may easily notice how vast the provocation is. Let’s see at what extent the scientific Romanian world will answer it and, most of all, how soon this will be accomplished.

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