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inkwell.vue.91 : Howard Rheingold - The Virtual Community, second edition
permalink #151 of 184: Steven Solomon (ssol) Sun 29 Oct 00 09:48
    
I have a feeling that as the medium (hardware/software/bandwidth)
improves to better engage the senses, moving beyond two-dimensional
displays and the pounding of the tips of your fingers, we'll see more
of the civility of the "real" world arrive on the net. The net will be
where we live, much of the day, and we'll no longer feel quite like
we're operating from a safe distance when tempted to flame. 

Let's just hope there's some civility left to transfer onto the net.

As to the digital divide issue, I have a feeling that we'll see the
same sort of thing that happened with urban teenagers and beepers, once
the right form-factor, price, and level of inutitive usability is
delivered in the form of a personal computing/telecom device -- at
least in the developed world. One day, a few businessmen, doctors and
criminals had beepers. Next thing you know, every kid is sporting a $39
telecom toy.

It'll be interesting to see what happens in places like India and
China, now designing web-mediated distance education programs for their
populations. We're about to see what happens over the span of a
generation, as a couple billion people who've never made a phone call,
poke their heads into cyberspace.
  
inkwell.vue.91 : Howard Rheingold - The Virtual Community, second edition
permalink #152 of 184: Howard Rheingold (hlr) Sun 29 Oct 00 10:18
    
The interesting part about all of these speculations, Steve, is that those
of us who are fortunate enough to live for another ten years will see
which way many of these questions are resolved.
  
inkwell.vue.91 : Howard Rheingold - The Virtual Community, second edition
permalink #153 of 184: Steven Solomon (ssol) Sun 29 Oct 00 12:33
    
Indeed, and much more that is unanticipated. 

I saw Andy Lippman (sp?) from the MIT Media Lab speak seven years ago.
I think it was the early spring of 1993. He proposed to the crowd that
he was about to make some bold predictions about the future, Yr 2000.
The funny thing was, he got just about everything right; PDAs, eBooks,
text to speech/speech to text, personal news and publishing,
synthespians, were all mentioned, as I recall. I don't recall him ever
mentioning the word Internet, and this presentation happened to be
about the time that Mosaic and the graphical web was about to emerge
from of UI - Urbana.
  
inkwell.vue.91 : Howard Rheingold - The Virtual Community, second edition
permalink #154 of 184: Howard Rheingold (hlr) Sun 29 Oct 00 13:22
    
Internet caught Lippman, Gates, et. al by surprise because the ARPAnet was
20 years old when the Internet started exploding beyond the scientific,
academic, and computer science communities. 

One thing about this hoo-ha about Al Gore. When I interviewed executives
at baby Bells, NTT, France Telecom, BT, in 1992, they were either unaware
of or dismissive of the Internet. Gore made a speech to the National Press
Club around the end of 1992, and suddenly all these telecom execs around
the world started paying attention.

Wellite Roger Karraker wrote a cover article for me in 1990, when I was
editor of Whole Earth Review, about "Highways of the Mind," which credited
a lot of Gore's early work, pushing legislation to support the build-out
of the Internet infrastructure.
  
inkwell.vue.91 : Howard Rheingold - The Virtual Community, second edition
permalink #155 of 184: Katherine Hafner (kmh) Mon 30 Oct 00 07:06
    

Yes, Gore got unfairly bashed about that at the time. No one, not
even Vint Cerf (not yet a popular icon) at the time promoted
the potential of the Internet as he did.

Howard, did the explosion of the Internet take you by surprise?
  
inkwell.vue.91 : Howard Rheingold - The Virtual Community, second edition
permalink #156 of 184: Howard Rheingold (hlr) Mon 30 Oct 00 18:50
    
Katie, the honest answer would be that I don't remember! I recall being
convinced that online communication was destined to expand far beyond the
enthusiasts of 1992 (when I wrote the first edition), but the way the
Internet and the Web transformed so many aspects of culture and society
was certainly beyond my expectations. When I first saw Dale Dougherty of
O'Reilly Associates demo the Web at the Whole Earth offices (before Mosaic
-- I think he used Cello or Viola) -- all I knew was:

1.  This is the future!
2.  I wanna get in on it!

When HotWired started, we were all very aware that we were at the very
beginning of a new medium. Combining multimedia editorial content with
many to many conversation was, and remains, very exciting to me. Too bad
there's no business model to sustain quality culture like the late
Electric Minds and the still standing Salon.com. I had hoped that a
thousand flowers would bloom in that regard.
  
inkwell.vue.91 : Howard Rheingold - The Virtual Community, second edition
permalink #157 of 184: Linda Castellani (castle) Mon 30 Oct 00 22:39
    
Well, in spite of its immense size, the Web is still young.  Still much
unrealized potential brought to us by as-yet undreamed-of technology.

It's such an exciting time!
  
inkwell.vue.91 : Howard Rheingold - The Virtual Community, second edition
permalink #158 of 184: Gail Williams (gail) Tue 31 Oct 00 07:43
    
Recently I re-read an old topic from the WELL Virtual Communities
conference, the conference where you shared thoughts and adventures on the
WELL while writing The Virtual Community.  This particular topic in <vc.> is
one which was put up on the Web when the WELL got its server and started
putting up user and community-related pages.  The formatting is primative;
as a sample of WELL content it's ridiculous, but as a snapshot in time,
these topics are fascinating.

They are at http://www.well.com/conf/vc

The one I stumbled across was number 21, oldtimers and newusers as of 1992,
a dynamic which predictably persists and is one of the ways in which
sustained dialog is *so* like a small town or an organization.  But I just
read the other two, and they are each fascinating snapshots of the era when
your book was first gestating, Howard.

I was thinking I'd ask for a comment on how things have changed, but I will
just leave it at a pointer.

At the time these when up, each user was asked for permission and there are
a couple of paraphrased posts from a user or user who said no, but in
general people agreed, even though the topics were actually created in an
atmosphere where the assumption was of a small "town" having access to read
the posts.  That was bold, in context, though there is nothing wildly
personal or unusual.
  
inkwell.vue.91 : Howard Rheingold - The Virtual Community, second edition
permalink #159 of 184: Howard Rheingold (hlr) Tue 31 Oct 00 07:51
    
Thanks for the pointer, Gail. I will look at it later today.
  
inkwell.vue.91 : Howard Rheingold - The Virtual Community, second edition
permalink #160 of 184: Howard Rheingold (hlr) Tue 31 Oct 00 19:16
    
I had not read those old topics in years, Gail. Just went through the
entiree 1992 "Is the Well a Community" topic. Casey. I miss her
intelligence, her skepticism, and the back of her hand. Ironic to read all
of her challenges to the notion of the WELL as community in light of all
the testimonials that surfaced after she died -- how much time she quietly
spent helping newcomers feel welcome and find their way around. I was
struck by this, too:
  
inkwell.vue.91 : Howard Rheingold - The Virtual Community, second edition
permalink #161 of 184: Howard Rheingold (hlr) Tue 31 Oct 00 19:17
    
More later.
  
inkwell.vue.91 : Howard Rheingold - The Virtual Community, second edition
permalink #162 of 184: Howard Rheingold (hlr) Tue 31 Oct 00 21:15
    




Topic   7:  The WELL as a community 
#164: Howard Rheingold (hlr)      Sat, Jul  4, '92  (13:14)      28 lines  

This passage struck me, while I was thinking about the heinous 
savageries of online warfare and the real warmth and healing of events 
like the Figtex testimonials.  

     "Communities...have a history -- in an important sense they are 
constituted by their past -- and for this reason we can speak of a real 
community as a 'community of memory,' one that does not forget its
past. In order not to forget that past, a community is involved in retelling its
story, its constitutive narrative, and in so doing, it offers examples of men and 
women who have embodied and exemplified the meaning of the
community. These stories of collective history and exemplary individuals are an important
part of the tradition that is so central to a community of memory. 
     "The stories that make up a tradition contain conceptions of 
character, of what a good person is like, and of the virtues that define
such character. But the stories are not all exemplary, not all about successes
and achievements. A genuine community of memory will also tell painful stories
of shared suffering that sometimes creates deeper identities than
success....And if the community is completely honest, it will remember stories not only
of suffering received but of suffering inflicted -- dangerous memories, for
they call the community to alter ancient evils. The communities of memory that
tie us to the past also turn us toward the future as communities of hope. They 
carry a context of meaning that can allow us to connect our aspirations
for ourselves and those closest to us with the aspirations of a larger whole
and see our own efforts as being, in part, contributions to a common good."  

         Robert N. Bellah, et al, "Habits of the Heart: Individualism and 
  Commitment in American Life," 1985  
  
inkwell.vue.91 : Howard Rheingold - The Virtual Community, second edition
permalink #163 of 184: Katie Hafner (kmh) Wed 1 Nov 00 10:14
    

That's quite a quote, and so well suited to the Well. 

Howard, one interesting thread throughout this entire topic so far has
been the Well as a reference point. It seems to come up over and over
again as a crucial reference point for so many people and in so many
contexts. Why do you think that is? 
  
inkwell.vue.91 : Howard Rheingold - The Virtual Community, second edition
permalink #164 of 184: Howard Rheingold (hlr) Wed 1 Nov 00 10:24
    
Good questions. Usenet and the BBS culture predated the WELL, and
certainly there are hundreds of thousands of online social networks. It's
a touchstone for me because of my long association with it. And the glib
answer is that it all goes back to Stewart Brand's strategy of not
spending money on marketing, but giving free accounts to journalists. It
became the earliest online watering hole for journalists who were the
first to sense something happening online; c.f., the Media conference.

I explored many different communities when I wrote the first edition, and
was actively involved in founding the River, Hotwired Threads (wasn't
there long), Electric Minds, and Brainstorms (a BBS-like community
described at http://www.rheingold.com/community.html).

And the WELL is such a rich cauldron of examples.
  
inkwell.vue.91 : Howard Rheingold - The Virtual Community, second edition
permalink #165 of 184: Katie Hafner (kmh) Thu 2 Nov 00 11:22
    
Well, this interview is drawing to a close, so I thought I'd drift off
topic completely and ask you about THE BOOK BUSINESS. You're written
several over the years, and earlier in the interview you alluded to
dramatic changes in the trade publishing world. Is it all the
consolidation that has made it such a dismal business for authors? Or
is it the fact that no one reads any longer (is that even true?) And
are you working on a NEW book?
  
inkwell.vue.91 : Howard Rheingold - The Virtual Community, second edition
permalink #166 of 184: Howard Rheingold (hlr) Thu 2 Nov 00 13:49
    
When the first edition was published, Bantam, Doubleday, Dell, Random
House, and Knopf were very different outfits. Now they are all part of
Bertelsmann. Bertelsmann, Newscorp, Time-Warner, and Disney are the main
players, I believe, and the little guys are disappearing.

The American Bookseller's Association annual convention was a huge event,
with tens of thousands of booksellers and sales reps. Now, the only buyers
who count are Borders and Barnes and Noble.

The "midlist" book, the $25,000-$50,000 advance, seems to be an endangered
species. I wouldn't have even tried to talk to a trade publisher about
reprinting The Virtual Community. MIT Press gave me a tiny advance, but
they will market the book to University bookstores, and keep the book in
print, which was my goal.

My agent only wants to hear about blockbusters.

So, yes, from my point of view, things have changed.

Thanks, Katie. It's been fun.
  
inkwell.vue.91 : Howard Rheingold - The Virtual Community, second edition
permalink #167 of 184: Amy Jo Kim (amyjo) Thu 2 Nov 00 14:10
    
Thanks Katie and Howard (and others) for a thought-provoking
conversation! I enjoyed it.
  
inkwell.vue.91 : Howard Rheingold - The Virtual Community, second edition
permalink #168 of 184: Alan Fletcher (af) Thu 2 Nov 00 16:21
    
Late-comer to the topic, but thanks for a good, long read.
btw, Roger Karraker's article is
"Highways of the Mind or Toll Roads Between Information Castles?"
and thanks to www.google.com, can be found at
<http://www.well.com:70/0/Communications/Highways_of_the_Mind.txt>
  
inkwell.vue.91 : Howard Rheingold - The Virtual Community, second edition
permalink #169 of 184: Cynthia Dyer-Bennet (cdb) Thu 2 Nov 00 16:39
    <scribbled by cdb Thu 2 Nov 00 17:22>
  
inkwell.vue.91 : Howard Rheingold - The Virtual Community, second edition
permalink #170 of 184: Cynthia Dyer-Bennet (cdb) Thu 2 Nov 00 17:23
    
oops, hurried replies lead to some stunning gaffes once in a while.

Thanks, Howard, for joining us here in Inkwell.vue. And thanks to you too,
Katie, for asking such great questions!
  
inkwell.vue.91 : Howard Rheingold - The Virtual Community, second edition
permalink #171 of 184: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Thu 2 Nov 00 20:52
    
Yeah, thanks! This was a great one!
  
inkwell.vue.91 : Howard Rheingold - The Virtual Community, second edition
permalink #172 of 184: Steven Solomon (ssol) Fri 3 Nov 00 06:30
    
Truly! Thanks to all.
  
inkwell.vue.91 : Howard Rheingold - The Virtual Community, second edition
permalink #173 of 184: Howard Rheingold (hlr) Fri 3 Nov 00 09:22
    
My pleasure.
  
inkwell.vue.91 : Howard Rheingold - The Virtual Community, second edition
permalink #174 of 184: Gail Williams (gail) Fri 3 Nov 00 09:28
    
Yes, this was fun.  Howard, thanks for reading back through the old
topics, it was good to share a memory of that good old bundle of
contradictions, casey, who had a lot to do with my sticking around
originally.  

I want to testify that your taped reading from the book is good listening
too..  it's http://www.salon.com/audio/nonfiction/2000/10/27/rheingold2/
and right now it's at number 17 on the most downloaded Salon Audio 
mp3 files.  

Katie, I loved your presense in shepherding this conversation.  Thanks, 
everybody.
 
  
inkwell.vue.91 : Howard Rheingold - The Virtual Community, second edition
permalink #175 of 184: Linda Castellani (castle) Fri 3 Nov 00 12:07
    

And let me add my thanks, also!  Please feel free to stick around if
additional thoughts should occur to you that you'd like to communicate.
  

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