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The Virtual Community: Homesteading On The Electronic Frontier
by Howard Rheingold
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Written by the man known as the First Citizen of the Internet, this book covers Rheingold's experiences with virtual communities. It starts off with his home community, The Well, out of Sausilito, CA, and makes its way through MUDs and beyond. No one understands the compelling strength of online community like Rheingold.
From Kirkus Reviews
An enthusiastic tour of cyberspace by one of its pioneers. In Virtual Reality (1991), Rheingold explored one corner of the amazing new world created and accessed by computers; here, in an equally well-informed but even more messianic (and cautionary) survey, he reports on ``the Net,'' the ``loosely interconnected computer networks...that link people around the world into public discussions.'' Like a physical net, the Net contains myriad knots, or loci: Rheingold's home locus is the Well, a San Francisco-based network that he's been logging on to since 1985 for about 14 hours a week in order to ``talk,'' via modem, to hundreds of people in assorted ``conferences.'' To Rheingold, the Well is a paradigm of computer networking--decentralized, informal, eclectic, and self- governing, a ``virtual community'' in which people meet, collaborate, argue, even fall in love, but all without physical contact--and he devotes much space to its power and wonder (when one member of the Well's Parenting conference announced that his son had contracted leukemia, for instance, other members responded on-line with overwhelming emotional and informational support). Rheingold covers the haphazard history of the Net, not missing the irony of its roots in a Defense Department project (though here his discussion gets relatively technical and acronym-packed), and he examines how it operates overseas, particularly in Japan and France (where the government-sponsored network is dominated by sex ``chat''). Despite his conviction that the Net represents grass- roots ``groupmind'' in action, Rheingold recognizes its dark side- -most dramatically, in the popular ``Multi-User Dungeons'' in which networkers indulge in elaborate--and highly addictive--role-playing fantasies; and in the very real possibility that governments and megacorporations will eventually misuse the Net as a way to spy, or to download products, on a logged-on public. Rheingold's central point is that there's a revolution taking place on-line; with this thoughtful, supportive critique, he's continuing his fair bid to be its Tom Paine. -- Copyright ©1993, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.
Howard Rheingold has been called the First Citizen of the Internet. In this book he tours the "virtual community" of online networking. He describes a community that is as real and as much a mixed bag as any physical community -- one where people talk, argue, seek information, organize politically, fall in love, and dupe others. At the same time that he tells moving stories about people who have received online emotional support during devastating illnesses, he acknowledges a darker side to people's behavior in cyberspace. Indeed, contends Rheingold, people relate to each other online much the same as they do in physical communities.
Originally published in 1993, The Virtual Community is more timely than ever. This edition contains a new chapter, in which the author revisits his ideas about online social communication now that so much more of the world's population is wired. It also contains an extended bibliography.
A thorough examination of the entire online community, discussing what people do and say online, with stories of incredible emotional support and acknowledging the dark side of people's Internet behaviors. Contains a new chapter revising the authors opinions about social communication online. Previous edition: c1993. DLC: Internet (Computer network).
About the Author
Howard Rheingold's numerous books include Tools for Thought (MIT Press, 2000), Virtual Reality, and The Millennium Whole Earth Catalog.
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