, Volume 3, Issue 1, pp 16-24

On the linguistic nature of cyberspace and virtual communities

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Abstract

This paper argues for a linguistic explanation of the nature of Virtual Communities. Virtual Communities develop and grow in electronic space. or ‘cyberspace’. Authors such as Benedikt Meyrowitz and Mitchell have theorised about the nature of electronic space whilst Lefebvre. Popper, Hakim Bey (aka Lamborn Wilson) and Kuhn have theorised more generally about the nature of space. Extending this tradition and the works of these authors, this paper presents a language based perspective on the nature of electronic spaces. Behaviour in cyberspace is based on and regulated by hardware, software tools and interfaces. A definition of electronic space cannot be given beyond its linguistic characteristics, which underlie and sustain it. The author believes that the more users and developers understand the relationship between language and cyberspace, the more they will be able to use specific metaphors for dwelling and inhabiting it. In particular, MUDs/MOOs and the Web are interesting places for testing and observing social behaviours and dynamics.