I was at Duke yesterday for a discussion about topics for a year (at least) project with the Interdisciplinary Studies and John Hope Franklin Center. Among the topics arising were many of the issues discussed and mulled over in our class (and by Rheingold et al). That is: trust, identity, community, and human-computer interactions (not necessarily of the mechanical type but of the psychological and even spiritual type).
I ended up wondering what it would be like to import (or channel) Barry Wellman into the discussion (Note: I did bring up social capital and Nan Lin which were entirely on the point, but on to this point). That is to say that all the theory and approaches seemed to be looking a cyberspace as a new place rather than as a newish place imbedded and framed by its relationship to every day life.
Rheingold came to this earlier than he admits in Wellman’s “Internet in Everyday Life” collection. He talks, when he talks about the Well, about the importance of the potlucks and of the death of a Well poster (even a problematic one) as some of the things that made the Well a community by creating communion.
After writing this, I think the person from Art and/or English, who suggested that one topic be the “historical concept of the face in European culture” as a way to understand new ways of building face to face communication environments or of simulating such environments, might have been the wisest person in the room.