Internet Communities As Intimate Publics

Thursday, July 17, 2014: 10:50 AM
Room: Booth 62
Oral Presentation
Elke WAGNER , Institute for Sociology, JGU Mainz, Mainz, Germany
The culture of the internet has long between described as community culture (Rheingold, Wellman, Thiedeke). But what does community here actually mean? On the one hand there is a sort of community feeling and support in online social groups (Baym, Greschke). On the other hand internet communities are often communities between strangers who have never met or will never meet. Even in Social Network Sites like Facebook the Friending-Practices don’t often mean true friendship but simply contacts between different addresses. Therefore Danah Boyd (2006) has suggested to describe community-building on the Internet as “writing community into being”: communities don’t exist per se, they have to be fabricated by writing practices. This paper wants to illustrate these community writing practices. It shows on the basis of screen-shots from Facebook and interviews with Facebook users how the special feeling of community does emerge here: On the one hand community means here an intimate sphere where contents between true friends are published. On the other hand contents remain indeterminate enough to include different friends from the contact list. Thus, community appears in Social Network Sites like Facebook as intimate publics. They are intimate because they assemble a list of close persons, but they are publics because there are different circles (Simmel) of close persons who have to be integrated in the writing practices. That is why indeterminate writing practices emerge.