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The lengthy and often heated debate on “on-line community” is, as this essay argues, often an argument about either (a) the fate of community today, or (b) the effects of technology on social relations. While the arguments against virtual community tend to start from the “bowling alone” position (accepting that community in its “traditional” sense has disappeared, is disappearing, or is under the threat of disappearance in contemporary society), there is a need to move on from this in order to think more productively about the contemporary constitution of community, especially in relation to new communications technologies. To that end, this chapter has a number of springboards. The first is Bauman’s dismissal of many contemporary forms of something-like-community as “peg communities” – as coat pegs on which we choose to temporarily hang parts of our identities. The second is Miller’s formulation of “webs as traps” – an investigation of the ways in which the aesthetics of the web interface are used to capture the attention of passing surfers. The third is Bakardjieva’s discussion of “immobile socialization” in relation to how on-line community participants weave on-line and offline parts of their everyday lives (and everyday communities) together. Finally, the essay returns to Bauman but then applies some of Giddens’ ideas about intimacy, to suggest that “peg communities” could be recast as “pure communities,” and through that discussion, to move towards a call for a more useful, contextual, less polemical debate about (virtual) community.

Returning (to) Communities

Theory, Culture and Political Practice of the Communal


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