Weblog Entry - 02/19/2002: "interest-group despotism"
By way of Jill at our blogonblog
At one point communication philosophers were all sharing Marshall McLuhan's vision of the Global Village, and thought the net would be the answer to that.
A village is distinguished by the fact that everybody know everybody, you are included in the community, and you're important to the function and dynamics of the community. This was the vision of how modern media would change the way we all thought about the world: It would bring us all closer, make us feel more related to and therefor care more about our distant neighbours. The planet would become a village.
There is not much village-like on the net - if there is, the village is Jante: highly exclusive, ruthless aginst those who think differently, ready to criticise and quick to reject. But a more realistic and positive image of the net is perhaps The Global City. I know I have seen this mentioned before, but I can't pin down who said it first.
If we think of the WWW like a city and not a village, the groupings and the special interest communities are not only understandable, but to be expected. In a city, there are different cultures and different attitudes, different social strata and even different nationalities clashing. We worry about ghettoes, but they are still unavoidable: people like to live among who they see as their peers. Some might be striving to become somebody elses' peers in a better neighbourhood: we call that ambition. Some might not care, and just drift around until they settle out of need or because they somehow feel comfortable there: we call that dropping out.
Online, you can find your comfort-zone, your neighbourhood. Sometimes this is the source of anger and hatred, just as in a real city. Sometimes this is a place to become comfortable, feel secure, feel that you are "home", and give you a place to start when you want to explore - just as with all those yong rebels streaming out of the too-safe suburbs looking for adventure.
I think that's just human - and I am grateful of it. If we didn't have this need for mingling with our peers as well as the will to explore, we'd still be disorganised individuals killing each others off with clubs.
Some might think that would be a good idea. Me, I like being a 21st century human being.