This story is from the category Life
Date posted: 07/10/2004
One of the greatest signs that our world is now truly intertwined with technological ones is the inclusion of a category for digital communities among the prizes awarded at the Ars Electronica festival this year.
The festival announces itself as itself as being about the three spheres of art, technology and society, but art has always taken the limelight of the three.
"When we started the Net art awards," said Joichi Ito, an eight-year veteran of Ars Electronica who was among the virtual community jurors this year, "we defined what it was."
He added: "Some of the artists didn't know they were artists. Virtual communities were even harder to define."
Virtual communities in some form or another have been around since computers first had modulators hooked to the phone line. Even before virtual worlds first emerged as actual entities, raw communication was shaping virtual communities. One of the very first, the Well, was started in 1984 by Stewart Brand, editor of the Whole Earth Catalog, and Larry Brilliant, a physician who had been a social activist and who had just started a company that networked computers and thought that Brand could help him figure a way to make this into a social tool.
The resultant community (the name derives from Brand's "Whole Earth 'Lectronic Link") is still alive and thriving today.
This year, the grand prizewinners were the communities 'Wikipedia' and 'TheWorldStartsWithMe', two systems almost dyametrically opposite in their implementation:
Wikipedia is an online encyclopedia that any user can edit and revise any part of.
TheWorldStartsWithMe is a Ugandan Web site that brings teenagers together to combat AIDS.
Political activism in general has been immeasurably strengthened by virtual community, and virtual worlds in the last decade or so.
The online notion of "chat" itself is free-floating, but once people find common affinities, they tend to build simple Internet communities around them, places to share their enthusiasms and debate ideas.
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