Community in the Digital Age
The development of technology in the digital era has created millions of different ways to instantly communicate with other people, the question is whether this has belittled our sense of community. As we move over time and advance with digital technology the way we interact with others is also changing, the real connection between people is now diminishing, our senses of community, and relationship is now getting blurred by our obsession with instant contact with others. Before digital technology communities there were groups of people with a common interest who would come together in person and connect with one another about a common interest. At this point in the post-modern era it is almost impossible to talk about communities without talking about the internet, we’ve shifted completely from what our old sense of community really means and it’s having negative implications on our society, this is what scares scholars like Sherry Turkle.
The way we interact with people over the web has really changed the way we now build relationships, express what we believe in, and maintain connections to fulfill the natural void that humans face when their not interacting with others. Vincent Miller, the author of Understand Digital Culture, who attempts to untangle the progression of communities throughout the different eras of life, including what we consider community being today. In the Oral era, which is considered the oldest era, local communities were very location based, at this time there were no form of communication between other societies. This created a local community based system that mostly focused on the people where individualism was looked down upon. Next era was the Scribal era, where people were born into specific roles where some would even overlap. This would be small communities with set roles, and just like oral era it was location based because of the lack of communication to other communities. The communities of these eras were fundamental for our society of the world as a whole, this is where face to face interactions would create the transmission of ideas that were kept within these small communities this is the idea of a “gemeinschaft”. But then came the development of the modern era, where the mass media starts to take over and we see a shift to much more of individualist behavior, which can be referred to as a gesselschaft shift. This is where we really start to see larger communities that seem to have a different perspective on the sense of the word community.
The difference between “real” communities, and “online” communities are not seen by most in our post-modern world today. Many people of todays society don’t see online reality as anything different from real reality itself. Sherry Turkle would argue differently, her way of describing a “real community” is the responsibility to someone. In online communities we create relationships with other people, but these are relationships without responsibility. She describes our generation are narcissists who plainly use online platforms for personal gain, and to use people to reaffirm their self qualities. There are many aspects of digital media that are more related to community in the traditional sense than others, for example the PRX podcast talks about this program that virtually has dinner with people across the world via Skype.
This is something that actually brings people together to have real conversations about things like politics, or different world views. Something like this is completely different from the online communities like Second Life, which is a game that you can create yourself however you want and interact with others around the world who have also created false personas of themselves. Most of the people that are on programs like that have a loss for place in their real life.
One of the significant reason we all communicate online is to connect with one another to fulfill the human needs for interacting with others. In the digital age, we express this by liking people’s photos or statuses, and favoriting their posts, this isn’t exactly communicating with other people, but it’s a way of keeping in contact with people in a simplistic way. Interacting through digital media has diminished our sense of community and redefined our definition of relationship.