This is a printer friendly page
Free for educational use

Online Communities

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 - belonging, communication, communities, hackers, Internet, online communities, youth, see all tags


Online Communities

How to Download the Video Clip

To download a free copy of this Video Clip choose from the options below. These require the free Quicktime Player.

download clip icon Premium MP4 onlinecommunities_pr.mp4 (20.3MB).

ipod icon Broadband MP4 onlinecommunities_bb.mp4 (9.6MB), suitable for iPods and computer downloads.

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.

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 Old people talk to old people, lonely gay teens find other lonely gay teens, unpublished poets trade with unpublished poets, physicians swap case histories with physicians, parents of dying children comfort parents of other dying children, plumbers order parts from plumbers,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


Pre-viewing exercises:

  1. Survey students to see how many belong to an online community through:
    1. Social networking sites (e.g. Facebook, Bebo, MySpace)
    2. Blogs, Wikis, discussion boards or forums
    3. Online chat (e.g. MSN)
      What is the most popular online community in your class? Discuss why it is popular – what do people like about belonging to online communities? How do online communities compare to ‘offline’ communities’? What are the advantages and disadvantages to belonging to an online community?

Viewing Questions:

  1. Describe the user interface of ALTOS (ie what the computer screen looks like to someone using ALTOS).
    1. Does this interface seem inviting to users? Why/why not?
    2. What kind of community do you think would use this chat system?
    3. Discuss the user names displayed – PAD SERPENT, ELECTRON, PENGO, GANDALF, PAR, PHOENIX. What do these names tell us about the users of the site? Do you ever use a pseudonym online? Discuss what your online name says about you, and how it invites others to perceive you.
  2. ALTOS was a chat site used by ‘hackers’
    1. Why would hackers prefer an online community?
    2. Do you think it is easier to create an identity and form a sense of belonging in online communities?
  3. ‘Electron’ describes communicating online and feeling part of “a world without borders”
    1. Use a Venn diagram to contrast the re-enactments of the man watching the fall of the Berlin Wall on the TV from his armchair, and the re-enactment of Electron chatting about it online.
    2. In what ways does this video clip position the viewer to favour communities using online communication?

Creative composition task (40 minutes):

Write a transcript of a discussion between ‘Electron’ and one of the characters from your set text. The discussion should compare and contrast how the characters experience a sense of belonging in their worlds.

Further Resources


Explore other online communities, such as social networking sites and virtual worlds, at:

My Space
Second Life
Teen Second Life