It is clear that members of networked communities engage in social behavior. For example, these individuals have been known to "meet" each other in these on-line communities. At these meetings, they discuss personal and professional matters, find jobs, advertise their services, engage in "stalking" behavior, and become visibly angry.

On-line social interactions provide the behavioral basis on which much network culture is generated and reproduced; such interactions are also the subject of the behavior that is regulated by culture at large. As a general rule, culture can be regarded as a collection of three elements: (1) values, or general statements about the "desirable"; (2) behavioral norms, including etiquette and convention, that provide the basis for judging, in individual situations, whether a value is being observed, thus regulating behavior in the interest of implementing or reinforcing values; and (3) beliefs that provide history, mythology, and world view. All of these apply to networked communities in various forms. For example:

  1. Many networked communities believe strongly in the desirability of unfettered communication. At the same time, many (especially those that reside on the Internet) believe strongly that commercial advertising traffic is highly undesirable.

  2. People observe forms of etiquette and social convention in networked communities. For example, behavior that is regarded by community members as antisocial is censured through peer pressure and comments (but generally not censored). Even behavior as subtle as typing in capital letters has significance, in that TYPING IN CAPITAL LETTERS IS WIDELY REGARDED AS THE ELECTRONIC EQUIVALENT OF SHOUTING.

  3. Networked communities have their own myths, their own equivalents of urban folklore stories such as alligators in the sewers. One persistently recurring myth is the report that some government agency is about to impose a modem tax that will make it prohibitively expensive for private users to use telephone lines to transmit data. The story may have some origin in truth,2 but it surfaces so

2  

This story apparently has its roots in two distinct events. In the early 1980s, a proposal was circulated to impose a charge on the leased lines used by on-line information services providers. The providers would have paid this charge, but in all likelihood it would have been passed to the ultimate consumers. In addition, in the early 1970s, a proposal surfaced in the Mid-west to impose a small additional surcharge on telephone lines that were self-declared to be supporting data communications traffic. Both these proposals died very quickly, but their effects linger on.



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