Telematique and Messageries Roses: My encounters with French online culture helped me see a few more outlines of the Net's global nature. Japan's own versions of Net culture first showed me how much bigger than its American origins the Net has become, and how far from English-speaking or culturally American discourse virtual communities have traveled. My explorations of France's two different virtual cities have surfaced another theme that seems to recur everywhere I've looked-- big institutions often think of CMC as a kind of database, a way of broadcasting information on screens to large populations who spend their time interacting with information, but populations of citizens almost always use CMC to communicate with each other in new ways unforeseen by the system's original designers.
IRC has enabled a global subculture to construct itself from three fundamental elements: For a student of virtual communities, IRC is an opportunity to observe a critical experiment-in-progress: What are the minimum elements of communication necessary for a group The virtual communities in japan people to cocreate a sense of community?
What kinds of cultures emerge when you remove from human discourse all cultural artifacts except written words? Izumi Aizu reached through the Net and transported me bodily to Japan. Our friendship started when an American friend of mine made a request via e-mail: The virtual communities in japan I be interested in traveling to Japan, all expenses paid, to talk to Japanese technologists about the future of virtual communities?
A Japanese friend of my American friend had organized a conference of Japanese researchers to discuss a vision of telecommunications culture they called the Hypernetwork Society.
The offer sounded too good to be true, but that didn't stop me from saying I was interested. The next day, I received a telephone call from Izumi Aizu, who assured me that it wasn't a fantasy.
The day after our telephone conversation, we started planning the visit in earnest, via e-mail. The third day of this unexpected turn of events brought e-mail from Katsura Hattori.
Hattori-san introduced himself as the science and technology editor of Asahi Shimbun --the second largest newspaper in Japan. He had read my previous books, and when he heard from Aizu-san that I was planning to be in Tokyo, he offered his services.
Aizu, Hattori, and I quickly discovered via e-mail that we shared some important common history, values, and interests that drew us together despite the geographic and cultural boundaries that separated us. We were all baby boomers who had participated in the political protests and cultural upheavals of the late s, and we were professional communicators who spent our time trying to help the different worlds of science, citizenry, government, and industry understand the implications of new technologies.
Most important, we were all believers in the potential of computer networking to help us build a better world for our children.
Aizu-san and Hattori-san literally opened a whole new world to me. I ended up visiting small virtual communities far from Tokyo, meeting a regional governor and a small-town mayor who both use CMC as part of their government, participating in social gatherings of enthusiasts from two different Japanese conferencing systems.
Those face-to-face gatherings had the same kind of zeitgeist--or perhaps kansei would be a better word--as the WELL face-to-face gatherings I know so well. That feeling of strong but ineffable kinship that cut through other social barriers led me to investigate those communities more deeply, online and in person.
My exploration of the Japanese online culture over the last three years has revealed both similarities and differences between Japanese and American virtual communities. I've spent about a month in Japan in two visits.
My electronic correspondence now includes half a dozen friends I met during my trips.
I've stayed with Izumi Aizu and his family in their Tokyo home--a rare experience for an American visitor--and he has stayed with me and my family in the United States.
We've become social interpreters for one another, translating the fine points of Japanese and American cultural codes that aren't written in books. Because of the deep cultural differences that lurk between the surface similarities, I would never have understood 1 percent of what happened to me as an American in Japan, nor would the doors have been opened for me there, without Izumi Aizu's assistance.
Through him, I met several colleagues whose friendships also have endured. I never would have known him or any of the other Japanese virtual communitarians if we had not met and grown to know each other in cyberspace.
Although my travels and observations of the real communities behind the virtual communities in different parts of the world have been unsystematic and cursory--it would take many years to visit and get to know people from any more than a handful of virtual communities--I think some of the similarities that surfaced are worth attention, at the level of what scientists call anecdotal evidence.
Similarities are easier to detect because they pop out at you when the background is mostly unfamiliar. The differences between virtual communities based in different cultures are far more difficult to tease out. For that information, I have to rely on my native guides and on the informants they introduce to me.
My travels with Izumi Aizu around rural Japan brought me into direct contact with key virtual communities, and many of the places we visited together, online and in real life, revealed possible similarities between American and Japanese cybercultures. These observations were mostly at the grassroots level.
The researchers and research managers I met, men at the highest levels of Japan's telecommunications companies, shared one important characteristic with their counterparts in large American and European telecommunications companies I've visited-- they seemed generally unaware of the impending collision or convergence between the social revolutions at the grassroots of CMC and the high-tech communications infrastructure the big companies were installing in Japan.
The telecommunications policymakers at NTT Nippon Telephone and TelegraphFujitsu, and other mainstays of Japan's communications industry seem to be waking up very quickly, however, given President Clinton's plans to build a national information infrastructure in America.
Ideas can move much more quickly from the fringes to the center in Japan, especially technology-related ideas. Japanese leaders, like American technology managers, find themselves forced to look beyond their piece of technological turf or the perimeter of their profit centers, to consider the larger system, the infrastructure--the social changes as well as the hardware and software involved in creating a national or international highway of the mind.
Through Aizu, I met Jeff Shapardthe cofounder of TWICSa pioneering virtual community in Tokyo that draws half its participants from Japanese residents of the Tokyo area, and half from Tokyo's non-Japanese population, including a large American expatriate contingent.
Shapard introduced me to his partner, Joichi Ito, a fast-moving, bicultural young fellow who became my friend in the United States as well as Japan.Your Second Life virtual world guide to the best in games, arts, chat locations, avatar fashion, music and more.
COARA was the first of several virtual communities I came to know in Japan, but I learned that there was an even older one. Before I left the United States, I obtained an account on the TWICS system in Tokyo and started introducing myself to members of that community. We started back in developing an online virtual pet for kids in schools to care for in hopes of helping them develop their skills before they got a real pet.
We got caught up in the swirl surrounding keychain virtual pets when they were released in Japan in early Welcome to the online version of Howard Rheingold's The Virtual initiativeblog.com you like what you read online, go out and buy a copy of the ink-and-dead-trees edition and give it to someone who needs to read this.
The following paper was recently presented by Kamlesh Ramji VIRTUAL COMMUNITIES IN JAPAN 1. Abstract In recent years, virtual communities have proliferated thanks to the converging technologies of telecommunications and computing.
In the United States, numerous virtual communities exist in. SAGE Video Bringing teaching, learning and research to life. SAGE Books The ultimate social sciences digital library.
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