Online Communities, Networks of Remediation, and Piles of Debris

While “Communities in Cyberspace” focused on examining the social communities of cyberspace, “Networks of Remediation” introduced the concept of media remediation through examining various media, especially films.  In Chapter 18 and Conclusion of “Media Technology and Society”, Winston pointed out that the development model of internet is similar to that of telecommunication industry, which can’t be counted as a revolutionary process.  As far as I’m concerned, the concept of media remediation has been repeated in the three articles.  Media remediation refers to that new technologies serve as an improvement on the experience of older ones, instead of being a replacement of older ones.

In “Communities in Cyberspace”, the author listed various internet interactivities from email, BBS, text chatting and MUDs (Multi-user Domains or Dungeons), WWW (World Wide Web), to graphical worlds.  As the computing power and networks bandwidth increase, the functions of the internet has been enhanced and developed into more applications, kind of remediation within the ecosystems of the cyberspace.  Yet, “Networks of Remediation” not exclusively examined the communities on the Internet, rather it explored the relationships of remediation among various media, including the media of art and film.  In addition, in “Media Technology and Society”, it is pointed out that the so-called digital age is not a real information revolution as people assume, rather it is just the ever-growing piles of debris from previous technologies.  In my opinion, the concept of “piles of debris” can also be viewed as the remediation of newer technologies on older technologies.  The law of the suppression of radical potential, which Winston described as new technology to impact radically on pre-existing social formations, can also be regarded as a mutual remediation between technology and the society.

Moreover, both “Networks of Remediation” and “Media Technology and Society” emphasized that technological change is determined by social, political, economic and cultural factors, rather than by technologies alone.  The formal qualities of the medium reflect their social and economic significance, at the same time social and economic aspects reflect the formal or technical qualities as well.  Nonetheless, in “Media Technology and Society”, Winston further pointed out that social forces can both push and hinder technological developments, the push and hindrance are referred as supervening social necessities and law of the suppression of radical potential respectively. 

Furthermore, the three articles all mentioned about the characteristics of “decentralization” and “distribution” of the Internet, especially for political uses.  “Communities in Cyberspace” described that for politics in US, the republicans view cyberspace as a tool to decentralizing political power, whereas the democrats think cyberspace can increase government efficiency and access.  In “Networks of Remediation”, the idea of political dimension on the Internet was further elaborated.  The article illustrated that new media, especially internet, can bring about a new kind of democracy, in which control was distributed.  Digital technologies offer people the "transparent" democracy, which means that citizens can communicate their political views directly with one another and to the government as well.  In “Media Technology and Society”, Winston mentioned that the initial supervening social necessity for the internet is distribution and decentralization of control, which was preliminarily established on the ground of military adoption of internet (to create a literally atomic-bomb-proof communication system).

Besides, “Communities in Cyberspace” and “Networks of Remediation” both examined users’ experience of media from psychological perspective.  The two articles discussed in detail the mental patterns and viewpoints users have when using media.  Also, gender issue in media usage is explored in the two articles.  In “Communities in Cyberspace”, the author mentioned about the problem of deception in cyberspace.  In the environment of MUDs (e.g. online computer games), People tend to perform various fabricated roles, in order to gain the satisfaction from authentic fantasy.  Online users can switch their gender identity arbitrarily, which leads to the behavior of deception.  In “Networks of Remediation”, the author provided the background of female being the object, which is gazed by male.  However, the play of mutual remediation among media can change and frame the gazing of male.  Gendered forms of looking differ from various media such as films, online games, and WWW.

I have experienced online communities such as email, BBS, online games, WWW, and graphical worlds (use of audio and video functions of Instant Messaging service).  I think the main differences between online communities and offline communities are the level of free speech and the satisfaction of fantasy.  Online communities make me more bold to express my thoughts and opinions because I can “hide” behind my computer screen, though still I need to follow certain rules agreed and made by the community I am in.  In addition, online communities like BBS and online games can satisfy my fantasy of playing another role and creating another personality at will.  In my opinion, the characteristics of decentralization and distribution of internet deeply affect the growth of online communities.  Internet eliminates the distance among people, making people in the world able to connect with one other.  Yet, the global village existing on the internet can also be viewed as individualized stage due to the characteristics of decentralization and distribution of internet.  On the internet, individuals can perform as much as they like.  They can distribute themselves via internet and attract other people, becoming the center of their respective communities.

by Erica Cheng.

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  • Meg  On 8 November 2005 at 7:39 am


    I always learn something when I read your posts. This was an interesting distillation of the three readings and I support your comparisons of the Communities in Cyberspace and The Networks of Remediation.

    It is not surprising to me That you find cyber communities liberating and also comfortable. Do you think that has anything to do with living in another country and being so far away from family and friends? Or is it because you sort of grew up with online and its second nature?


  • erica  On 8 November 2005 at 4:22 pm


    I think it’s because I’ve grown up in an environment where my friends are all used (or even addicted) to using the internet as communication and entertainment tools. So it’s kind of “Network Effects” on me to rely so heavily on the internet.


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