Innovations and Reproductions in Cultures and Societies
(IRICS) Vienna, 9 - 11 december 2005

<< Virtual Communities

How 'Real Life' Topics Affect the Life of Electronic Communities and Networks

Philipp Budka (University of Vienna)



Speaking of 'the internet', one often forgets that this is not a monolithic media-technology but a whole range of applications embedded in the life of people practicing these media. This paper explores on the one hand the life of a publicly accessible mailing list that connects various indigenous and non-indigenous persons to form a global electronic network. On the other hand, it analyses a UseNet newsgroup on the socio-cultural life of Austria.

With the help of two detailed case studies the interconnections between 'real life' or off-line topics and 'virtual' or on-line lives on mailing lists and newsgroups is demonstrated. In this specific case 'life' is determined through the character of these media, which is textual. Therefore the study uses content analysis to investigate the discussions in these electronic forums.

This paper intends to show that 'virtual life' never can be separated from 'real life' and it's topics. Furthermore it takes a look at the socio-cultural diversity on the internet by using two, at first sight, completely opposing cases: a global indigenous discussion group and a national electronic community on Austria. Anthropological concepts and ethnographic methods are used to carry out this study.

Innovationen und Reproduktionen in Kulturen und Gesellschaften (IRICS) Wien, 9. bis 11. Dezember 2005

WEBDESIGN: Peter R. Horn 2005-09-13