Schwartz, Evan. "Looking for community on the Internet." National Civic Review, Winter 1995 v84 n1 p37 (5)

Keywords: First Amendment, virtual communities


The author believes that because the Internet is not centrally controlled and regulated, it is providing an effective proving ground for the First Amendment. Within the U.S. Internet there are no consistent enforceable rules yet established for Internet use and content, in fact, in most cases you are on your own in cyberspace. This article looks at several virtual communities and how they manage public discourse. The famous WELL virtual community was started in 1985 as an experiment to give people access to new tools for public discussions. Within the WELL the members decided what direction and rules the community would go by. Another example of a virtual community was Baud Town, a virtual community that has built itself around the analogy of a real town, complete with social norms and, a neighborhood watch program (users police one another). Baud Town created an environment where users give and receive support. The unique many-to-many, bi-directional capabilities of the Internet are what let the Internet function as a vehicle for community. The author concludes by warning that cyberspace may not be a replacement for face-to-face community, yet acknowledges that for some, a virtual community may be better than no community at all.