I wanted to raise the question of the idea behind internet communities and about the various types of communities that are established by currently existing internet sites such as the various forums, and sites such as myspace and facebook, as well as this site. All these various options on the internet seem to share the feeling that a new type of community is called for in our current existence. Yet, while sharing this NEED for a community, do all these sites have the same IDEA of a community behind them? The word community, as is well known, has to do with the concept of the common, what a group of people has in common, a commonality that brings them together. In classical times, the idea of the establishing of a community had often to do with the ritual of the sacrifice. the community was brought together, made as one, by EXCLUDING something from itself, sacrificing it as a gift to the gods. This exclusion of something that was achieved as sacrifice was mostly understood as the exclusion of a danger to the community, an exclusion of an UNWANTED element that as if prevented the community from fully being itself . Thus, in Sparta, the exclusion of any deformity in the shape of killing imperfect babies in order to establish a community that shares an ideal physical perfection. But even if the classical understanding of the community was not always necessarily understood as having literally to do with the excluding sacrifice of an unwanted threat to the community, the community was always understood as a sharing of a common content, a common interest, a common desire that was understood as already given and existing, and that everybody who wanted to be part of the community had to already share, or agree to share in this already given desire, interst etc. In the writings of most of the interesting thinkers of the question of community in recent decades, there is a growing attempt to rethink the very idea of community, of that which brings people together as a commonality, which goes beyond the classical concept of a community based on sacrfice or on a commen, given, interest or desire. What the recent thinkers have tried to formulate is something that has been formulated, for example, as the paradox of a community of those who have nothing in common, a coming community that we do not exacly know yet how to achieve. What does this mean? what these thinkers are trying to formulate is a new way of thinking the togetherness, the coming together, of humans, a coming together which is not the result of a common fear that brings people to gather together, a fear that needs to be excluded and chased away, nor a result of a common interest, say an interest in riding motorcycles or the love of Jane Austen, but a coming together that results from an original OPENNESS of humans to each other, precisely because as humans they are defined as open, that is, as not having any content (thus this or that desire, or any given qualities, bering of this or that color or race, etc) that defines them as human, but that what defines them as humans is exactly NOT having such a quality, but of being CREATIVE, thus, being able to transform themselves and to make a new world for themselves that is not dictaed by any fears which block them nor by any given characteristics thart they have. Thus, what humans can be said to SHARE, thus to have in COMMON, is not any particular thing, interest, or fear, but the capacity to relate to each other by way of creating something new.
Now, it seems to me thar the recent search for new models of community on the internet responds very much to this contemporary need to rethink the idea of community, a need that results from the very obvious event, in which we are all participarting, of the dissolution of all the traditional communities all over the world. Nothing seems anymore to connect people together, since there is no common content, no desire which everyone can agree as sharing, and thus everybody as if becomes an isolated individual with no tie to others. Now, it is clear that internet communities try to recompensate for this disastrous event by attempting to reeestablish communities thrugh the virtual medium of the internet. Yet, I would say that most of the models suggested so far are to an extent arcane and not successful in that they seem to reduplicate the old ideas of comminity, either by understanding community as a commonality of a given content, or even by understanding a community based on the decision on who to exclude from it. Thus, the idea of an internet forum in which, for example, all the lovers of Jane Austen can come together, is an attempt to bring all these people who already share this love, and to an extent, to exclude all those who prefer George Eliot, or god forbid, Dickens. Thus the idea behind these forums is that, while people all over the world have lost any community of sharing a content in common, this can be reestablished by going beyond any particular place and finding all those, all over the world, who are still loyal to this content.The idea behind myspace and facebook are perhaps not much different. Their desire is to help people establish relations with those that recognize them as having something (meaning some given content, interest, desire, or fear) in common, and to create through this recognition a new community.
Now, the idea behind a site such as this strikes me as radically different, taking us indeed into a new idea of community, not one that tries to replicate the old idea, an idea which was highly problematic precisely because of the logic of sacrificial exclusion that dominated it. The type of community this site attempts to create is not that of people who ALREADY share an interest, and that participate in such community as the affirmation of what they ALREADY HAVE, thus a content or a desire that already exists in them. Rather, the idea of community this site aspires to is as a CREATIVE endeavor, a creative community, meaning, a community not of those who already have something in common, but a community that is created out if the coming together of those who are looking for what they can BECOME, become something new through the interaction with others to whose questions they open up. This is the idea, it seems to me, of the importance of the concept of LIFE guiding this site, or a life question, life AS question, as something to be explored and created (rather than as already given in figured out as in the case of a community that simply affirms what one ALREADY KNOWS and is interested in). LIFE IS THAT WHICH BRINGS PEOPLE IN COMMON in that it (life) is understood as a question through which we open up to others, and through this opening come together with them, that is become a community. But this coming together, to repeat, is not coming together through the sharing of an already existing interest, but through the bonding that happens when several people discover together that there are no pre-given answer and that a new world has to be created. This coming together as an effort to create something is a new idea of community, and it is to such a project, I think, that this site belongs.
Would you agree that this indeed distinguished such a site from the idea of forums, and of myspace and facebook?