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Cloud Communities, Part 3

by Benjamin Anderson 24. June 2009 21:31

This week, while I was studying cloud computing platforms and the current definitions for the new buzz words, I started thinking about how the new terms translate to the new social and relational paradigms.  Cloud Computing is being used in a broader sense to describe virtualization of computer resources and systems.   Our new online social interactions have produced a virtualization of our relationships.  There are both benefits and scary repercussions to our behavior and the transition to these Cloud Communities.

As a result, “Cloud Communities” is getting a more specific definition.  Cloud Communities aren’t just communities formed on the internet, they are communities formed around an individual on the internet.  Each person forms, drafts and manages their own Cloud Community around them.  These community is completely free-form and free-floating.  It is constantly changing.  It is constantly abuzz.

For anyone involved in computers for 15 or more years, the online communities and connections with strangers isn’t a new thing.  Electronic Bulletin Board Systems (BBSs) were used for electronic communities before the Internet and World Wide Web were wildly available.  These systems allowed individuals with similar interests to gather and commune in an electronic gathering place.  Most of the communication was done through forum posts on the BBSs.  Through those conversations and means the computer “nerds” formed relationships with perfect strangers.  Today, everyone is doing similar things by connecting with strangers through Twitter, Facebook, MySpace and the thousands of other niche networks available on our cell phones, computers and entertainment devices.  It has become a mainstream activity for perfectly disconnected strangers to cross paths in these networks and form relationships.  The “strange” and weird relationships of the BBSs have become perfectly accepted in today’s culture and completely invaded our everyday life.

Along with the completely new relationships we’ve thrown our real-life relationships onto these networks as well.  The Cloud Communities don’t include just tangent relationships formed over the Internet, but they now include our family, friends and co-workers.  There isn’t anything wrong with having our everyday relationships included in our online lives, but there is a problem with the degree that the online relationships and our real-life integrate.  Unlike the BBS friendship, or the AOL chat buddy, the online networks aren’t locked down to a system that is only accessible through our computer over a modem.  These relationships, with stranger or family member, are all directly accessible through countless means, the most common one being our cell phones.  The online relationships are beginning to encroach on our real-life relationships.  Tweeting, checking our friends’ Facebook status and reading email replies to our latest post within a community have trumped the conversation and relationship of the people sitting in front of us.  It’s gone as far as being the means in which some relationships are maintained, even when person is just down the street.

The virtualization of our relationships and communities isn’t all doom and gloom, but the extent of which it has interfered with reality has made more people local introverts and global extroverts.  When a text message across the room is a more common means of greeting people in a group rather than finding them and shacking their hand, our environment and bodies no longer matter.  Which makes motivating and connecting with groups even more complicated.  Attempts to connect and commune online results in a direct competition with all the noise already welcome in the individual's Cloud Community.

One voice among several hundred aren’t the ideal odds someone fresh out of bible schools wants to deal with, but with an online connected teenager the odds become one voice among  hundreds-of-thousands.  How does the church connect, commune and counter-act the noise outside of our local environment when it is welcomed in by the one we’re trying to reach?  What do we do with our involvement in the online communities to stand out within each individual’s Cloud Community that they built up around their self?  How do you communicate peace to an individual that is surrounded by more activity and noise than ever imagined, especially when the Cloud Community is always there even when our local community is no where near?  How does a group outside of someone’s Cloud Community connect with them and become apart of their community?

How has the virtualization of your own relationships and interactions impacted your local environment?  How has it impacted your peace of mind?  Do the costs of maintaining and managing your own Cloud Community out weigh the benefits of maintaining the connections, community and invasion of your life and privacy?


Categories: Cloud Communities | rants


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About the author

Benjamin is a software developer in the DFW area.  He spends his free time playing video games, programming, doing graphics design and photography, and reading.

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