Common Cyber Culture


Whenever I write about the Internet as a media for social interaction and a common space of communication I like to refer to it as cyberspace. Basically it is not different to the technology we call Internet. The Internet together with the implication of the phenomena we call globalization (and therefore please refer to other definitions because this term is really difficult to describe within a few sentences) created a common information and communication backbone/ platform accessible to everyone within the range of Internet cafés or Internet jack points in general.

What I like to write about first occurred to me during my studies in Great Britain. Me and my housemate were having one of our first espresso-sessions together and we started talking about some nerd stuff because we obviously spent a lot of time online. We did not only knew the same games but also YouTube videos and other phenomena which occurred in cyberspace in the past ten years. I thought about it for a while but then discarded the thoughts. Then, I came to the Philippines. There again I was talking to some people only to find out that the I luv you virus was programmed here and that the same web comics are read here. Again, I started ‘deepening’ the discussion and found out that the same cyberspace phenomena are known to a lot of people.

During my seminars on social anthropology within the Latin American context we discussed also the value and basics of culture during class. I remember three things which constitute a common culture: shared victories/ failures, common past and language.
I am not really sure about the cyberspace and shared victories and failures. One example would be definitely an international online movement which succeeded or failed in achieving their goal putting pressure on some government or company. One example might be the current movement in Iran against their ‘government’. Apart from people actively participating some might have proxied bloggers through their computer resources, distributed and uploaded articles, cracked government computers in order to circumvent censorship or whatsoever. This might only involve a couple of people but they have a shared victory or failure then.
The common past is quiet easily to describe. A famous YouTube video, underground website, virus or wikileaks article everyone knows is worth discussions and forms kind of a shared past because no matter where in the world you lived during this time you experienced it, can talk about it and share the experience with other people of cyberspace.

What about the language? =), some things might have evolved somewhere else but in cyberspace there is not only one but several distinct languages. Similes and certain abbreviations are inherent to the cyberspace and might also be used outside of it. However, you should rather laugh during a date than simply say LOL. Well of course depends on who your date is.

So, do we have a common cyber culture? I am not sure. I feel like a part of my personal culture is closely intertwined with what I experienced in cyberspace. If I meet other people with a similar relation to the cyberspace we might indeed have a common culture built on what we experienced in cyberspace. However, there are also a lot of people who only use the Internet as a tool and do not do or want to understand the Internet as a social environment. They might log in for the past ten years but never cared about what happened in cyberspace. They were never part of a social or cyber circle of people who share particular events and happenings. If, for example, a popular underground website turns out to be government controlled my instant messenger would tell me that within a short period of time. A lot of other people would never be aware of it if as long as their favorite news site (most likely their email portal) would not feature it.

Briefly: There is a thing called common cyber culture but it is exclusive. Not everyone who is on the Internet is at the same time in cyberspace and part of this culture.

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