Electronic Cultures

 As I contemplate the concept of culture, more specifically cultures in an electronic sense, I find that there are some elements that do not necessarily jibe with main-stream cultural ideas. Online or electronic cultures seem to be a bit more malleable. The members of these cultural communities tend to fade in and out and change much more easily than members of a culture rooted in long-term traditions.  As I thought about this, it seems to me that the reasons could be attributed to the internet itself. As a medium of expression and communication, the internet is a virtual (no pun intended) infant. If this is the case, then how can a culture even exist? Wouldn’t you consider a culture to be something of a more static and solid nature?  Because the traditional connotation of culture conjures images of generations of members who have developed traditions and morals over a period of time, how can the internet produce cultures of its own in such a short period of time?

I would venture to say that the internet has not produced culture.

Culture has been uncovered and nurtured through this device; however, the internet is just this – a portal to view people through and bring them together.  Because you can boot up, log in and figuratively “step through” the portal to a new land, a room full of friends or even the halls of an institution, I see the internet not as the culture, but as a venue for people of similar interests to come together and be recognized.

I have belonged to many cultural societies over the course of my time perusing the internet. What I find interesting is that these societies are not new to my being; they are merely doorways that I step through to do something that I am already inclined to be a part of. I play games (World of Warcraft, Asheron’s Call and others), go to school, and talk about family and other interests that are mere extensions of me, not new me’s.  This is what I mean: The internet did not make me play games; I already played similar games with my family on Nintendo. The internet did not make me learn to cook, sew, bead or do other crafts – it was merely a tool to help me learn.  I could have gotten a book or asked someone or joined a local club for this type of support.  The internet did not make me go to UW Stout; I could have gone to the University in person if I had to.  Facebook was not necessarily for me to speak to my family and friends. If these activities create what someone would call a new culture, then I believe the term needs to be re-thought.

Bernadette Longo makes some great references to online communities in her article: Human + Machine Culture.  Here she refers to the differences between the way non-electronic communities and the universal community that can occur online.  I believe that her reference to the impossibility of a universal community is something I very much agree with. In mainstream communities, there are those that are included and others that are left out.  While this may seem to happen online, (maybe through a facebook page that friends and unfriends), this is but a small aspect of the larger whole.  But what I think is more interesting than this is the commitment that is lacking online. People hope from site to site, and literally take a bit from here and a bit from there but really do not have to commit to anything on the internet. Yes, in our courses we are making commitments; however, can the instructor really holler to you as you leave class and hold you back?  Even an email request can go ignored and later some electronic glitch of an excuse can be noted.

This is actually a first post this week.  As I was reading about culture in Spilka, I just could not resist “sounding off” about the concept of culture.  I also want to post about  LinkedIn as well because this is an amazing resource that I am still getting used to. One of the questions I want to ask is: Should I pay for the full service?

About Robyn Gotch

After many years of quilting, sewing and long-arm quilting for myself, I felt it was time to offer these same services to the public. You will find that because I am a quilter myself, your projects will be treated with the same care and respect that I do my own.

Posted on November 6, 2011, in Social Media, Society and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. Robin—

    I like how you said that people don’t need to commit to the Internet because they can hop around. I think this is something that companies need to understand before they commit to creating a social media online presence because there are some companies that will not be able to have a successful social media presence. If a company’s message is not going to meet the needs of the audience, then the odds of the audience leaving that company’s social media platform greatly increases.

    I think companies need to figure out who is following them online so they can target their messages to that audience. The thing is, I don’t think a lot of companies pay attention to that because they almost treat their social media marketing the same as an e-mail marketing campaign—“We’ll just send as much information as we can. They will read it if they want to.” With social media, a campaign like that won’t work because people have the ability to leave and hop around.

  2. I don’t think anyone ever needs to pay for the “full service” of anything. The free versions are enough. In fact, I believe you asked me here [http://www.daisypignetti.com/2011/08/17/theres-an-app-for-that/#comments] about paying for the full version of the WordPress app, but that’s not even an option anymore.

    I wonder if the points about community here can be expanded upon in your final paper?

  3. Well, I didn’t know that you were a gamer, too, Robin! I haven’t played since I started my master’s degree, but I logged a lot of hours on World of Warcraft with my husband and new friends we made online.

    I agree with you that the internet is in its infancy, but in my opinion there is a “culture” of sorts there.

    I also have trouble with the idea of culture as something static. In my opinion I think cultures change and grow all the time. When I was a kid, the city would put up Christmas decorations and even a crèche in one of the parks downtown. We sang Christmas carols unabashedly in public schools, and blatantly followed lots of Christian traditions.

    As a culture, we found that we were being Christo-centric and insensitive to lots of our friends’ and neighbors’ belief systems by making our “cultural tradition” ubiquitous and unavoidable. These days we are more sensitive others’ beliefs. I miss the “old days” to a certain degree since it is my belief system and family heritage, but I feel more strongly that people of other faiths/beliefs shouldn’t be made to feel different and out of place if they don’t want to participate in our “culture”. So we evolve.

    Don’t even get me started on women’s place in culture ;D.

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