InterChange Transcript on
Virtual Communities(Pt. I)

To return to the Part Two page, click here.

Wayne Butler:
Welcome to InterChange, a real-time conferencing program for local 
area networks.  

Today we are going to "discuss" some of what we've read in 
VIRTUAL COMMUNITIES.  From reading your responses to the book, 
I've noticed that you have focused on a number of issues, including:
--who should govern the Internet?
--who should pay for the Internet?
--should the internet be censored?
--Addiction:  Why does it happen and what should be done about it?
--Human relationships:  Will or does CMC have a positive or negative 
effect on human interaction?

Obviously we can't discuss all these issues today, but I would like to 
visit each of them as the course progresses.

For today, let's start simply with the question:  What are the 
strengths and weaknesses of virtual communities, and what should 
be done about the drawbacks?

To participate in this conference, all you need do is compose your 
response in the bottom box.  When your message is ready for the 
world to read, click on the send button.

Todd Dubinsky:

Stephen Chim:
Hello there, do you read me?

Justin Coopersmith:
yes I can read you loud and clear

Kevin Tiernan:
I believe that to be able to talk to a variety of people from all over 
the world without going anywhere is a great thing.  As Rheingold 
stated the need to meet people face to face is there.  But you can 
meet people at picnics or such throughtout the year.  My mom this 
summer is going to Tennesse for a week to meet with a group she 
chats with.  Last year I beleive it was in Canada where they met. As 
a matter of fact I also talk with a person who my mom does who is 
setting up this meeting.  She sends me via real mail, pictures and 
postcards, christmas cards.  She even sent my mom and me a 
internet book.  She got 50 free because she is teaching a class on the 

Amanda Read:
I think that the strengths of virtual communities are obvious. One of 
the main strengths in my opinion would be that you have access to 
such amazing amounts of information from such a wide variety of 
people. The weaknesses of virtual communities are not so evident. 
One of the things that has stuck out at me is the lack of face to face 
relations which I think are quite important when you are speaking of 
a community of friends. 

*I am not sure if this is exactly what we are to do but it is my shot.*

Todd Dubinsky:
I think one definite weakness is the fact that the internet is so 
uncontrolled.  There are many bugs with the system itself, and about 
half of the information on the internet is worthless.

Kelly Kloustin:
Virtual communities have both strengths and weaknesses, and they 
are fostered by the communities themselves. If a community allows 
such practices such as racism, or sexism then the others in that 
community will follow that cue and it becomes an acceptable form of 
interaction in that community.  On the other hand if the community 
encourages a  sense of family then that sense will  spread to others 
in that communtity.

Irfan Murtuza:
One of the main strengths of a virtual community is the abiltiy to 
hold discussions with others who are interested in the same topic as 
you are not  in the same geogrpahical area.   Also in virual 
communities you do not have play the same role you do in real life.  
The instantaneous prejudices based on physical qualities which are 
placed on a person do not exist.  A member is valued by what he/she 
says and how he presents himself.  Of course the InterNet cannot 
replace face-to-face interaction but it allows daily contact which 
would otherwise would be impossible.  There you go.

Justin Coopersmith:
I agree with Todd's statement because I usually end up not finding 
anything when I conduct searches just deadends.

Nicole Cooklin:
Virtual Communities are a great new way of communicating with 
others.  These communities allow for quick and efficient 
communication.  I think that virtual communities are a great new 
way to keep in touch with others around the world, and make many 
new acquaintences and friends.  The Net is amazing, there are so 
many options out there for us, we can only touch a few of them.  As 
for weaknesses, I don't know that I can think of any right now, they 
haven't been very evident to me yet.

Stephen Chim:
The greatest strength of the virtual communities is that the computer 
network breaks down the barrier of time and space and brings a 
large pool of minds together to share information, experience & 

Paul Faux:
One of the strenghths of these virtual communites is that now, we 
can meet people in a more genral way than by ordinary human 
contact.  There are no ussues of race or color on the internet and 
there are no issues of gender.  If you don't make it apparent at first.  
Meeting people this way can change the individual views of certain 
groups of peolple especially if you can't seee them.

Ian Butler:
It will take you all a while to figure out how to use this program, but 
here are some tips.  Just like in an oral conversation, listening is as 
crucial as is speaking.  To "listen" on InterChange, you scroll up the 
transcript.  Just so I don't miss anything anyone has "said," I scroll up 
to my last contribution and then start reading down from there.  
When I find a message which I find interesting, confusing, 
controversial, whatever, I will then send another contribution 
commenting on the message that intriqued me.

Irfan Murtuza:
Along the lines of what Todd said, I find the InterNet kinda' jumbled 
myelf.  Sure there is oodles and oodles of information out there, but 
where do you start?  That's what I finding is hard to deal with.  Also, 
I'm seeing that sometimes long time existing members feel a little 
exclusive about their clubs and not exactly receptive to beginners.

Amanda Read:
I agree with you about the weakness. Perhaps there ought to be a 
way to censor out all the worthless material? The problem with this 
of course would be the loss of the self-governing aspect.

Todd Dubinsky:
Amanda, I think there are weaknesses that are evident.  For 
instance, in this country, child pornography is illegal.  However, in 
Germany, it isn't.   No one can stop me from accessing a server in 
Germany and downloading these illegal pictures.  There isn't 
someone at the border where the telephone line hits the U.S. who 
prevents this information from  coming through.  It has and can 
very, very easily be retrieved.  I'm not worried about freaks who are 
18 and over, but more worried about 10 year olds who are more 
fluent with the internet than most adults.  

Dana Reichman:
I think  one strength of vc's  is that people can communicate their 
true opinions more readily.  Unlike in real life confrontations people 
are less concerned with what people will think of them and can be 
more frank. Since you don't really ever have to meet the people you 
are talking too, I think there is a tendency to to just be totally 
honest. As a result, internet discourse may prove to be more useful 
in some instances.

Michael Edwards:
As a response o the first question I feel that the governing system 
shouldn't change.  I would really like to see the Net as a free for all, 
not as another part of our society where the minority controls the 

THe second question in the stack is "Who should pay...?"  I think that 
the internet should be payed for through the phone bill the longer a 
person is on it the more he pays.  But do have the charges very very 
very low.  This I think is feasible because of the sheer number of 

Ian Butler:
Oops, I just realized I'm still logged on as my three-year old son.  I'll 
log off and return under my own identity.

Becky Rickly:
Amanda--the lack of face to face (f2f) interaction has a lot of people-
-including educators--upset.  A colleague at U of M who uses 
computers to teach has noted that students seem *uncomfortable* 
talking to each other f2f after talking FREELY on the computer.  Other 
people are concerned that the viable, changeable nature of this 
medium will affect  how people act IRL.  Still other people mourn the 
loss of physicality, and are worried about whether or not we'll LOSE 
the ability TO communicate (or even *function*) physically.  Me, I 
think somewhere there's a happy medium--but I wonder:  I know a 
lot of people who prefer to spend three hours on a computer talking 
to people all over the world than three hours in a coffee shop here in 
AA.......what do you think?

Nicole Cooklin:
Although there is alot out there, and you may be confused at first, I 
think that the Internet must include all of this information.  You may 
not be interested in most of it, but some one out there is, therefore 
all must be included.  You just have to start where your intrests lie.

Justin Coopersmith:
I found a great book at Tower Records, The Internet Yellow Pages.  It 
gives direct addresses to all those hard to find places.  If anyone is 
interested just ask.  

Kathleen Soo Hoo:
There are many positive aspects to the virtual communities as 
mentioned in Rheingold's book. While logged on to a computer, 
people can "talk" to many other people from different parts of the 
world. These may be people who one will normally never interact 
with under different circumstances. In addition, since one gets to 
choose who one chats with, one will be able to find others with 
similar interests. 

Stephen Chim:
I agree with what Todd brought up. There are so many junk 
information on the Net. However, from another point of view, these 
junk to us may be meaningful to other users on the Net. Perhaps the 
anarchy nature is also one of the best thing of Internet. No great 
power, like a government body, is controlling this media. Therefore, 
this media belongs to the all of the people and it can be used by 
everyone to express their opinions very freely. This is a big contrast 
compared with all other media like newspaper, TV, cable, radio, etc. 
Only a small group of people who owns the media determine the 
information to be shared by the larger majority. That's not fair. And 
this freedom on the Net sounds so good to me.

Todd Dubinsky:
Should a connection through the internet to a town next to you cost 
the same as a connection to Russia? 

Kevin Tiernan:
Todd & Justin
To you it may be useless information, and what you do find useful 
may be stupid to someone else the point is obviously somebody felt 
there was a need to put it on there.

Todd Dubinsky:

Paul Faux:
Vitual communites can indeed have detrimental effects to society.  
For one it sort of "cheapens" culture by diminishing human contact.  
Eventually, by expanding cyberspace there will be less need for 
human relation when you can have convienient non-relation at your 
own computer.

Amanda Read:
Don't you think that people should learn to communicate honestly in 
face-to-face discussions? I think that it is pretty sad that people 
have to communicate over a screen in order to free themselves from 
many inhibitions. What do you think? 

Irfan Murtuza:
I'm going to have agree with Michael on who should pay for the 
Inter.  If someone feels like Mudding for 22 hours out of the day he 
should have to take the dent in his wallet throught their phonebill.

Dana Reichman:
i agree with michael.  the internet means more if anyone can use it.  

Kelly Kloustin:
Dana, I agree with you . I also like to think the net is lind of like 
alchohol People get addicted to it, and it breaks down peoples 
inhibitions about conversing or even flirting with others.

The Wily One:
I think Wayne should foot the bill for the whole internet!!!!

Vanessa Liou:
I believe the virtual communities offer a great opportunity for 
people who normally would not be able to interact in IRL to actually 
"meet" and find themselves sharing a wealth of information.   It's an 
entire world that is still evolving and changes as in reality.  The 
negative side is the number of barriers put forth by the government.  
I don't think the govt should become embedded into this world.  It 
should be allowed to grow.  The Virtual communities also brings up 
the issue of its effects on social values.  I have a difficult time 
actually decided whether it's detrimental or beneficial.

Nicole Cooklin:
Who is the Wily One?????

The Wily One:
Under INterchange you can use a command called pseudonym to 
change your name.

Todd Dubinsky:
I agree with Amanda....there is a point when people go over the line, 
with how real their conversations are on the net.  If you have never 
met someone, and your only contact with him/her is through the 
internet,  he/she is NOT your friend.  He/she is a virtual person, who 
like you, is saying things on the Net that you probably would never 
think about saying in person.

Wayne Butler:
Ah ha!  Wily One has learned how to use the psuedonym function of 
InterChange.  Unfortunately, Wayne can't afford to pay for the 
internet, so we'll have to figure out some other way.

Justin Coopersmith:
I read about all of Rheingold's anecdotes about addiction and wonder 
if someday their will have to be virtual psychiatrists to solve peoples 
urges for the Internet?

Becky Rickly:
Wily One:  What do you think the importance of being able to change 
who you are:  your sex, your description, your personality one the 
net?  Is this a positive thing?  Or is it negative?  Or a little of both?  
Why did YOU opt to come on as "they wily one" rather than under 
your real name?

The Wily One:
Some people don't treat the internet as a joke though.  They treat it+ if it was real and so they don't lie to anyone and they don't put 
out a false front.

Oh, so "The Wily One" isn't a false front?

Jaime Ross:
I think the strengths of virtual communities comes from being able 
to communicate with people all over the world.  This can help you 
learn about different cultures and interact wiht people you normally 
would not have a chance to.  Addiction is definetly a weakness.  I 
think that could be a serious problem in the long run for individuals 
as well as society.  Another problem  that I see is the lack of face to 
face interaction.  This pronblem is even present in our class, at least 
for me.  I read your messages every night and I have familiarized 
myself with each name and writing styles.  When I come into the 
classroom everyone's face is familiar, but the names I know on my 
computer do not match faces.  I do know a few people in here, but 
not many.  This is a problem that can be solved because I see 
everyone in class twice a week.  But what about other situations 
where you may not see the person as much?  I think that face to face 
interaction should not be a lost concept once society starts to be more 
dependant on computers.   As far as what to do with the drawbacks, 
that is a more difficult question.  I would like to say  putting 
restrictions on people would solve the problem of addiction, but I do 
not think that it is anyones right to tell someone else how much and 
when they can use their compter.   To solve the problem of personal 
interaction, I just think that it has to be up to the individuals.  People 
just need to realize that if they are making strong bonds with one 
another over an extended period of time then you need a face to go 
with the emotions.

Paul Faux:
To Justin:
I don't fully understand how somone can get addicted to something 
like the internet.  Maybe I don't understand because I'm not really 
interested in computers very much.  That idea sounds very 
promising for people who are in trouble on the internet

Nicole Cooklin:
I think it is wonderful to be able to change who you are on the net.  I 
can't speak for Wily One, but this option gives shy people a chance to 
come out of their shells, or just the average person the chance to act 
"abnormal", or a little different than their regular persona.

Wayne Butler:
I find Todd's phrase, "virtual person" very interesting.  What do you 
mean, Todd?  Perhaps that just like there are virtual realities that 
are sometimes the same and most times different than real life there 
are also potentials for people to create virtual alter-egos, and when 
those virtual selves interact with others they are not experiencing 
true human interaction but rather virtual, and therefore less true or 
real, friendships?

Paul Faux:
I think that the Wily one has an addiction.

Dana Reichman:
I'm not saying people should not strive to be open and honest in real 
life.  but people don't always say what they are thinking at the 
moment for obvious reasons of ettiquette and time ana place.   I'm 
just saying that the internet provides an anonymous environment 
and I think that can encourage more candid feedback.

Becky Rickly:
Do you think the Internet is a joke?  

kind of interesting, isn't it, that on the Internet (or here, for that 
matter) we have a *choice* to treat this as something fun (by taking 
on a different name, gender, description, etc.) or as something very, 
very serious.    We rarely have choices like that (at least on a large 
scale) irl....or at least, it's MUCH more difficult....

Kevin Tiernan:
If you can become addicted to the internet caouldn't you say that we 
are addicted to real life people.  What we are addicted to is 
communication.  If the only way we feel we get respect is to 
communicate over the phone than we should be allowed to do this.

Kelly Kloustin:
One of the greatest aspects about the net is that it has forced those 
interacting on it to become quick,critical thinkers. It has also open 
doors for those who would otherwise never take part in a political 
debate. When it's anonymous people can state their true feelings on 
an issue and bounce ideas off of others. It's a great tool for thinking.

Stephen Chim:
Here is a response to Amanda:
I agree that, for those who use a lot of time chatting with their 
virtual friends in cyberspace by IRC or whatsoever, CMC is really 
cutting down their time that they normally spend on socializing 
friends who are living in their immediate geographical 
neighbourhood.  However, I am a little bit reserved on your point 
that face to face interaction is quite important in communication. Do 
anyone in class think that without physical appearance in our 
communication make us more concentrate on our words and on what 
we are really trying to express, rather than the way we say it? I am 
not denying  that face-to-face human interaction is a good thing, but 
I really like to communicate in special medium like CMC where we 
have to type to expression what we are saying. The communication 
will be much less impetutous than normal conversation.

Michael Edwards:
to those debating the face-to-face pros & cons
I feel that by talking through the computers that people are more 
likley to be them selves.  Have you ever tried to talk to a person that 
is very shy.  you almost has to drag responses out of them.  On the 
other hand have you ever talked to a over powering dork that wont 
be quiet.  Now with out the threat of physical action the weak shy 
person can speak his mind and feel good about it because a) the 
person is safe b) the person will develope a selfconfidence in side 
him self about his/her views.  Also maybe the overbearing will back 

Kathleen Soo Hoo:
In response to Becky's comment, I find that is easier for people to 
open up on a computer.  People feel more comfortable since there is 
no face-to-face interaction. However, as you stated, this will lead to 
less physical communication. Personally, while I feel comfortable 
talking over the computer, I would much rather sit in a coffee shop 
talking to someone face-to-face. I think a person can get more out of 
a physical interaction.

Nicole Cooklin:
Jaime, I know what you mean.  I know everyone in this class by the 
computer only.  I don't quite know how to place the faces with their 
writing either.  I guess that is one of the pitfalls of CMC.

Wayne Butler:
I've got a growing interest in what some of you have been saying 
about human relationships and how CMC might alter them in 
negative ways.  We seem to be working on the assumption that face 
to face interaction is the best way to build human relationships.  
Let's examine that premise.  Is there something really crucial about 
face to face (f2f) or is it just something we've grown used to because 
that's all we had to mediate human relationships?

Stephen Chim:
Yeah, Paul. You are very right in saying that a lack of physical 
apperance in our communication eliminate the barrier of color, race 
and sometimes gender as well. 

i agree with kevin, that perhaps it is not an addiction but more of a 
need for people to reach out to others.  The virtual community has so 
much to offer in this area.

Dana Reichman:
I agree with steven- I did not know how to word it.

Becky Rickly:
I like what Kelly said about the Internet being a "great tool for 
thinking."  I wonder....does that thinking then carry over to f2f?  How 

Irfan Murtuza:
Stephen, in face to face conversatiions over the InterNet a lot of 
misunderstandings result because of the lack of facial expressions or 
tone of voice.  How can you duplicate those kind of things on the 

Jaime Ross:
Sorry guys I did not realize that my response was so long!

Amanda Read:
I understand what you are saying. I find some discomfort in the fact 
that I really do not know too many people in this class. It seems like 
the exchange of papers over the net makes it harder to get to know 
people in class. I am not sure what this is do to but I know for me I 
feel a little strange that everyone has read my reading responses and 
they don't even know me. Before this class I was even reluctant to 
let my best friends read what I wrote. 

Paul Faux:
To Kevin"
I don't know about peolpe being addicted to communication.  I think 
that it might be something more in depth than that.  Say for instance, 
somone kjnows that they are very ugly.  No one wants to talk to this 
person.  By logging on tot the internet he can get the feeling of 
acceptance that he has been longing fro all of his life.

Kevin Tiernan:
I have been to some picnics with my brother when he used to run a 
BBS.  Since we have all talked without meeting before when we did 
meet it wasn't uncomfortable.  Also there still were no rules to us.  
We still talked in the same way as we did on the board.  I think this 
is because we were all comfortable with each other and knew each 
other wouldn't react differently.  

Wayne, what I mean by virtual person is someone who, when they 
log onto their computers, changes to accomodate the net.  For 
instance, someone who is shy in reality will be very outgoing on the 
net.  So the question to be asked is, is this person shy or is this 
person outgoing?  The answer is unquestionably that the person is 
shy.  This is because in reality, if you met this person, he/she would 
probably not begin a conversation with you.  Therefore, his virtual 
personality is different than is real personality, voiding the entire 
nature of "REAL"-time chat.  How real is it?

Wayne, what I mean by virtual person is someone who, when they 
log onto their computers, changes to accomodate the net.  For 
instance, someone who is shy in reality will be very outgoing on the 
net.  So the question to be asked is, is this person shy or is this 
person outgoing?  The answer is unquestionably that the person is 
shy.  This is because in reality, if you met this person, he/she would 
probably not begin a conversation with you.  Therefore, his virtual 
personality is different than is real personality, voiding the entire 
nature of "REAL"-time chat.  How real is it?

Justin Coopersmith:
Responding to Kathleen
Actually we maybe facing another revolution in the technology 
department when XEROX perfects their video link up to CMC.  Now 
we will have more physical contact with one another.  Solves that 
problem I guess

Irfan Murtuza:
We saw what you said the first time Todd

Dana Reichman:
kelly, i agree.   I think the net is a perfect forum for intellectual 

Jaime Ross:
Does anyone else feel the way Amanda an I do about not knowing 
anyone in this class?

Dana Reichman:
sure, jaime. I don't even know which one you are.

Wayne Butler:
Hmm, we also seem to be drawing lines around honest 
communication and inhibited communication.  Why is it that the 
warm and fuzzy and emotional face to face interaction, that many of 
you seem to be longing for, is also the mode in which people seem to 
clam up and be less honest?  Do you see what I'm getting at?  On one 
hand some of us think f2f is better, but at the same time is less 
honest than CMC.  Why shouldn't we just go with the more honest 
CMC mode, then?
Transcript continued on Part II.

To return to the Part Two page, click here.

Contact wbutler@umich
with comments or questions.

Modified: 3/4/95