Saturday, February 10, 2007

About the Rheingold reading (to get you started)

As promised, here’s a write-up of some of the questions that occurred to me as being relevant to understanding/exploring the Rheingold chapters. You may find other questions that I did not. That would be welcome!

In your summary, I wouldn’t expect you to deal with all of them – that would take a chapter or book all your own – but you could explore a few of them in meaningful ways. This would be in addition to summarizing Rheingold’s (or whichever author you would be dealing with) main points.


Early in the reading, I start to wonder: What’s Rheingold getting at with the metaphor of a family? Does it hold up?

He’s recalling his life on the computer since 1985. So in what context is he experiencing this use? What was his life like during that time? How might his experience be different today?

What does he mean by “self-design of a new culture”?

Why might a virtual community feel less authentic by not being “grounded” in the user’s “everyday physical world”?

How does his virtual life co-exist/intertwine with his “real” life?

He says: “Most people who get their news from conventional media have been unaware of the wildly varied assortment of new cultures that have evolved in the world’s computer networks over the past ten years.” What does he mean by this?

“Big power and big money always found ways to control new communications media when they emerged in the past. The Net is still out of control in fundamental ways, but it might not stay that way for long.” Comment and explain.

How does Rheingold define “grassroots” and how does he see that as part of the Net’s development?

For those of you who game, how accurate or astute are Rheingold’s predictions of CMC becoming a “serious marketplace for meterable interactive fantasies”?

Do your experiences of CMC match up with his? What examples can you cite?

Comment on the three levels of CMC. Is the political significance of CMC being realized, for example?

How does he contrast the agora and the panopticon? How does he develop that metaphor?


I’m not going to go too deeply into this because I’m sure you’re getting the point from the above questions (and I don’t want to rob you of the pleasure of tracking your own interactions with the material), but one aspect of the reading leaps out: How does Rheingold develop the “heart” metaphor, and what characteristics does he envision the Well – and by extension, other virtual communities – as having?

Have fun. See you all Monday.

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