[Air-l] Re: Company vs. Community

Bram Dov Abramson bda at bazu.org
Tue Dec 18 10:30:20 PST 2001

dsilver at u.washington.edu wrote:

>But it seems to me that one of the most common
>(and nefarious depending where you stand on the issue) developments in
>mainstream cyberculture during, say, 1997 - 2000 has been the
>commercialization of online communities.  Is it just me or does it appear
>to the rest of you that the folks at Amazon, Yahoo, and
>fill-in-the-blank.com have been reading Howard Rheingold?

Not the commercialization of online communities, but the constitution 
of online communities inside commercial space.  The Amazon community, 
or eBay community, etc didn't exist prior to Amazon or eBay and then 
become commercialized via Amazon's or eBay's behaviour.  Rather, 
Amazon and eBay produced communities as commercial commodities.

As commercial commodities, those communities had quantitative value: 
they were translated directly into dollar figures by equities 
analysts as a way of valuating the company's worth on the market. 
Which, in turn, provided incentive for this activity.

The assumption that communities and commerce exist in an agonistic 
relationship is problematic.  They don't, necessarily.  The drive to 
build community is as native to commercial activity as it is to 
non-commercial zones, Howard Rheingold notwithstanding.  (Heck, just 
look to what radio folks call the golden age of radio.)

So, rather than fall into that can of worms, maybe it is better to 
talk about communal ties outside commercial enterprise in a normative 
way, ie as a Good Thing.  What are the implications for the Internet 
when commercial enterprise expends the most resources on 
community-building?  What are the different ways in which community 
can cohere (and does cohere) inside commercial spaces, and what are 
the implications of these different kinds of community-building? etc.



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