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Video clip synopsis – ALTOS - an online chat community based in Germany - provided a 'world without borders' for its members.
Year of production - 2001
Duration - 2min 45sec
Tags - design, emerging technologies, innovation, Internet, online communities, technology, technology and society, see all tags


Online Communities

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Additional help.

About the Video Clip


This video clip is an excerpt from the film In the Realm of the Hackers, produced in 2001. In the Realm of the Hackers is a Film Australia National Interest Program produced in association with John Moore Productions and with the assistance of Film Victoria and the ABC. The video clip is on the website From Wireless to Web, produced in 2005.

The interviews with Trevor Barr and Scott Goodings were recorded for the website.

Trevor Barr is an author, professor and the Director of the Creative Industries Research & Applications Centre at the Queensland University of Technology. Scott Goodings is a self-proclaimed 'TV freak’ and walking archive. You can view their full biographies at From Wireless to Web

The website is a selective history of broadcast media in Australia. Decade by decade, from radio and newsreels to TV and the internet, this history shows how the Australian broadcast media developed and shaped the way Australians see themselves.

From Wireless to Web is a Film Australia production in association with Roar Film.

Curriculum Focus


This Module can be used to achieve some of the outcomes of the NSW Stage 4 Technology (Mandatory) syllabus; specifically the following outcomes:
4.1.2: describes factors influencing design in the areas of study of Built Environments, Products, and Information and Communications.
4.4.1: explains the impact of innovation and emerging technologies on society and the environment.
4.6.2: identifies and explains ethical, social, environmental and sustainability considerations related to design projects.

This material is an extract. Teachers and students should consult the Board of Studies website for more information.

Background Information


“... probably the first thing anyone notices when they go online … is the community-building taking place all through cyberspace. Old people talk to old people, lonely gay teens find other lonely gay teens, unpublished poets trade with unpublished poets, physicians swap case histories with physicians, parents of dying children comfort parents of other dying children, plumbers order parts from plumbers, truckers chat with truckers …” [Jon Katz, 1995] (qtd Barr 249)

“[People] exchange pleasantries and argue, engage in intellectual discourse, conduct commerce, exchange knowledge, share emotional support, make plans, brainstorm, gossip, feud, fall in love …” [Howard Rheingold, 1993] (qtd Barr 250)

“Tomorrow’s children will be released from geographical limitations on friendship and collaboration.” [Trevor Barr, 2002] (Barr 251)

A 'community’ could be described as any group of people who share beliefs or a feeling of belonging together or a common interest or purpose. The Internet and Web have created the possibility of 'virtual communities’ with new and different kinds of human relationships.

With new communications technologies, people who might never meet face-to-face 'meet’ online, where they share thoughts and ideas, express feelings, form attachments, even work in highly collaborative ways. Relationships online take many forms – they can be one-to-one, one-to-many or many-to-many. Together these virtual relationships are the basis of online communities, which function through email and two-way mailing lists, discussion groups and forums, via document and file exchange, real time 'chat’, and by working or playing in virtual spaces known as Multi-User Domains (MUDs).

MUD-dwellers “improvise melodramas, build worlds and all the objects in them, solve puzzles, invent amusements and tools, compete for prestige and power, gain wisdom, seek revenge, indulge greed and lust and violent impulses … [This is] the wild side of cyberspace culture, where magic is real and identity is fluid …” [Howard Rheingold, The Virtual Community, 1993]

Classroom Activities

  1. Since the beginning of the Internet the ability to interact with like-minded individuals instantaneously from anywhere on the globe has held enormous attraction. Just as traditional groups or communities have differing methods and customs in how and what they communicate, so do online communities.
    1. What are the benefits of belonging to an online community?
    2. Imagine you were administering an online community. What rules would you have? How would you promote and encourage the life of your community?
  2. Many older people consider computer games anti-social. How do online games in general challenge this perspective?
    1. Research and discuss the network requirements for using Playstation’s Online Gaming and Microsoft’s XBox Live.
  3. Non-verbal communication and tone add additional meaning to verbal conversations. Discuss techniques used to convey additional meaning in instant messaging. Eg: :-) = happy or joking.
    1. Outline the social benefits and disadvantages of instant messaging.
  4. What are the benefits and disadvantages of wikis?

Further Resources


Go to From Wireless to Web for more about the history of broadcast media in Australia.

Go to HowStuffWorks, How Wikis Work

Go to Neopets