Internet Communities

What role has the Internet played in the creation of communities?

The introduction of the Internet into society has brought on many changes to our way of life. We have altered many processes including communication and production because of the ease at which we can do them through the Internet. Marshall Poe published an article, “The Hive,” that provides a history of the online encyclopedia, Wikipedia, and describes the influence that this site has had on society. Amanda Palmer, in her TED talk, “The Art of Asking,” discusses the influence of the Internet on a community that she created using various platforms. Both authors discuss how the Internet has shaped us as a society by forming communities that have found ways to use the tools that the Internet has provided them. Society has created conventional ideas that we are expected to follow, but both Poe and Palmer provide examples that show how society can upheave these conventional norms, and how the Internet plays a role in this defiance.

Wikipedians and Their Productivity

In Marshall Poe’s article “The Hive,” he provides insight into the creation of Wikipedia. The community that grew with the creation of this open online encyclopedia was able to succeed in productively developing a wealth of knowledge that every member of society could access. It began with the invention of “Portals” and “Web directories” which provided people with email, entertainment and the ability to find what they wanted on the Web (Poe). This turned the Internet into something much more useful than it had previously been. People could find the information that they were looking for, and also publish knowledge that would now be easier for others to obtain. Society was now more connected than ever.

Larry Sanger, a partner of Jimmy Wales who developed Nupedia, eventually learned of the magic that showcased how “communities with common interests work to improve wiki pages by incremental contributions” (Poe). Sanger and Wales took advantage of this “wiki magic” to build Wikipedia, a truly open online encyclopedia that became the breeding ground for a highly productive community of people that contributed their ideas and information to build the encyclopedia. This defied the conventional idea that when the masses come together and are given the chance to accomplish something the way that they deem necessary, then the outcome will be of low quality. Wikipedia was proven to be an Internet tool that gave society the power to augment the way in which we share information and ideas.

Wikipedia’s success also showcased a point about the Internet’s integral role in improving the way that things are done. People can now collaborate with others from all around the world and manifest detailed collections of knowledge. Previously this could only be done if people traveled, and even then the information had to be documented on paper and translated. Now, we can simply click a button and an entire webpage can be translated into a plethora of languages. We have the ability to easily communicate with all members of society and host intellectual discussions. The Internet has provided us with the tools necessary for productive and innovative collaboration that has defied the conventional norms that we were previously expected to follow.

Ask and You Shall Receive

Amanda Palmer’s TED Talk, “The Art of Asking,” provided useful insight into the power of a community to come together without any promise of reward, while using the tools provided to them through the use of the Internet. Their ability to create a meaningful connection was directly tied to these resources and they defied the idea that people require an incentive or reward in order for them to do something for someone else. Palmer showed that when she asked for help, thousands of people came to her aid.

Amanda Palmer during her TED talk, “The Art of Asking”

Palmer encouraged the sharing of her music through torrenting, and turned to crowdfunding to ask people for support rather than selling it. The community that she had formed through her use of twitter and crowdfunding had supported her without the promise of compensation. Palmer described this experience as,

“[falling] into those thousands of connections that [she] had made, and asking [her] crowd to catch [her]” (Palmer 8:54).

The community that she was a part of was one that aided her and her career and they did so without being paid in return. This defied the general idea that people need to receive something in exchange for their time or contribution and the resources that the Internet provided lead to an alternative way to support the music industry.

Final Thoughts

Since the creation of the Internet people have used it as a resource to connect with others and to also collaborate on various tasks. Poe and Palmer both describe Internet communities that have come together to produce inspiring outcomes. They have provided examples of society creating these powerful connections and defying the normal conventions that they are faced with.

Society is faced with stigmas that diminish our abilities and expect us to fail when working in large groups, or when we are not promised a return on our efforts. However, when people are given the opportunities and the resources that the Internet now provides, they can productively build an online encyclopedia that encompasses our knowledge as a society. They can also grow the largest music crowd fund project without any promise of a reward. The Internet gave these communities the resources and tools needed to defy the norms and be successful.

Works Cited

Palmer, Amanda. “The Art of Asking.” TED.com. TED Conferences, LLC, Feb. 2013. Web. 25 May 2016.

Poe, Marshall. “The Hive.” The Atlantic. The Atlantic Monthly Group, Sep. 2006. Web. 24 May. 2016.

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