Asia.Com: Asia Encounters the Internet

By K. C. Ho; Randolph Kluver et al. | Go to book overview

14

Support and spewing

Everyday activities of online Hindu groups
K.S. Arul Maragatha Muthu Selvan
INTRODUCTION
Because of its global reach and rich multilingual context, the Internet has the potential to influence different types of social relations. Unlike the traditional mass media, the Internet has an open architecture which has restricted efforts by authorities to regulate Net activities. This, in turn, has provided immense freedom and space for its users and members to express their feelings about their particular interests. The Internet provides a technological infrastructure for computer-mediated communication (CMC) across both time and space, creating a new group communication environment, a form of virtual co-presence established as a result of individuals' electronic interactions, creating a potential for virtual communities. The interconnected computers do not by themselves provide congenial space for a group of people to float an online community in cyberspace. According to Baym (1995), the factors of temporal structure, external contexts, systems infrastructure, group purposes, and participant and group characteristics have been put forward as the most salient pre-existing forces on the development of computer-mediated community. Virtual community has its own advantages compared to the offline world. Computer-mediated communication will do by way of electronic pathways what cement roads were unable to do, namely connect rather than atomize us, put us at the controls of a "vehicle," and yet not detach us from the rest of the world. Each online group exists in cyberspace with its own unique social setup and its affiliation with external social institutions. Kumiko Aoki (1994) divided the study of virtual communities into three separate groups:
1 Those that overlap totally with physical communities.
2 Those that overlap with these "real-life" communities to some degree.
3 Those that are separated totally from physical communities.

The rapid growth of personal computers, along with the popularity of cyber cafés, the rapidly expanding number of modems, and commercial

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