Just finished reading a column by Andrew Walmsley of i-level in which he holds forth on the ‘social revolution’ brought about by online communities. If you are looking for a laugh, this is the article for you. It made me laugh, but it was also diasppointing.
On the basis of stardoll.com (a site where little girls can potter away a few hours making up celebrity wardrobes) and some sweeping statements about Facebook, Walmsley spouts forth a sort of marketing-cum-psuedo-sociological utopian hyperbole that would be more appropriate in the late-Nineties when all this stuff first hit our consciousness.
Walmsley has a narrow understanding of the meaning and manifestation of ‘community’, illustrated by statements like ‘hundreds of millions of people across the globe participate in real communities online… more real and relevant to them than their local ones’. Come on! This suggests that we all lived in a sort of primitive, mundane hunter-gatherer world fluctuating between states of boredom and fear of ‘them next door’ until Mark Zuckerberg came ridin’ in.
While I am ultra-enthusiastic about the available opportunities and range of online communities, articles like this only serve to confound people and do nothing to develop the form or function of online communities beyond their commoditisation.
This was a missed opportunity to say something much more interesting and valuable. Let’s discuss ways in which online communities can – and already are – reconnecting or adding value to location-based communities (in addition to sustaining interest-based and asynchronous communities). Yes, don’t worry there’ll be an opportunity to make a quick buck along the way if you want, but the social capital is what what we should focus on first-and-foremost.