|Virtual Community and Global Village|
Trying to forget the traditional sarmale and sausages so necessary to our community's spirit, we are going to deal today (persent is always the tense of writing and reading) with something we promised to talk about long time ago. A short electronical tour into the space of the group we form, maybe not on purpose, letting ourselves absorbed into the universe of sites and chats, surfing and exploring the computerized present to which we owe our survival meant as breaking through into the virtual space. But where do we go when we run away out of our concrete walls? Have we ever asked ourselves this question?
Let's admit that most of the times we don't go out on the Web to get real information or to be "up to date" but for the pure pleasure of transposing ourselves into another space, to establish an alterity, to assume other masks or to build difference / closeness for some "others" that we discover beyond the screen. We leave the fortress walls not to enter a metropolis but to return, in a way, to the village that made us conceive structurally the idea of city. The village is the first possible type of society with certain norms and a cultural and linguistical unity. We place the totem (image of buried ancestors) in the center of the village to organize the collection of individuals around a fix point that we consume and recover ritually day by day.
The totem of the virtual village is at the same time coordinatingand referentially speaking it is the "tool", "instrument" and our worshipped object; the computer. That is at the same time in the center and at periphery, constituted in a network: at periphery so that everybody could dispose of it and and in the center because we connect, while accessing, to a server, a central computer. In the same way, the magical object that operates upon the mistically and mythically imbued reality is placed at the same time centrally and peripherically within traditional societies. The totem (taboo object) is placed in the middle of the community's space and at periphery (in everybody's house) we find the cult objects, fetishes, amulets or diverse elements primitively invested with powers of seduction and control, power operating powers. So far, the analogy is valid.
Let's look at it further. We have at our disposal the first unifying element linking the ideas of traditional village and global village: the totems, which seem to be not only similar by analogy but also unique in their originary intentionality. One couldn't build a virtual reality otherwise than benefiting of something material, that is to found the immaterial element. We seem to miss the human material but luckily we can find that on the Internet. We could say that there is plenty human material here... The individuals that we meet on the Web have to satisfy the same requirements as they have the same goal. It's the same in the mythical village that we described. The people have the same interests, the same needs, maybe even the same desires.
As "in the village", defined economically as (literally) community of interests, the unity of goals creates inevitably a unitary society. What is more, the statistical diversity is present in both cases: the individuals, even if they justify themselves in society as structural unity, continue to exist separately as unique individuals and moreover as independently defined individualities. We justify ourselves at mass level but we live separately, even if we took part in the permanent society preservation ritual, enforced by common ethics, communication protocols and events that shape our history.
In the virtual space we support each other, we know that there are always "the others" to which we may appeal or a discussion we can join. And we always have a place of our own (geocities? well? devilsharem?) where we can find shelter or create there, perform freely our art. The group instinct is the last resource of gathering ourselves out of the process of perpetual division into fragments to which we are dragged by the multimedia world we have to face every day, inevitably.
Towards the end of our discourse, we draw the conclusions and trace again the steps: we have until now the idea of totem, that we find both sides, as well as the new dialectics of the relationships individual-society, individual-individual. On the new valid ethos (already present!), on a possible "metaphisycs of manners" at an electronical level, on the new rituals and habits that we impose (or take over!), see the next edition.