In the late 80s, friends of mine in Rockford Illinois, where I went to high school, used to meet up with friends they met on D-Dial, a BBS system. They got together for pizza, for bowling and for D&D. It was my first experience with any type of online community, and I remember playing around online in my buddy Chuck’s attic on his Commodore 64, chatting with people and downloading the Anarchist Cookbook so we could make our own fireworks (Well, that was the plan. We never quite found the right fertiliser, although I know we scared the bejeezus out of my girlfriend at the time as we drove around town listening to free jazz and dreamed out loud about the massive rockets we’d make.) My friends had been online for years, using the simple text-based systems that pre-dated widespread access to the internet outside of universities, scientific institutions and the military.
But even then, I knew that offline community was important to online communities. It’s a common misconception that people use online communities to replace or in lieu off face-to-face, ‘real’ community. I have always rejected that, and my online communities in Flickr and via blogs reinforce or support my offline social ties, especially having friends spread over a few continents.
That belief was reinforced Friday night as I attended the DCist’s “Exposed” photo exhibition. The Warehouse Gallery was filled overflowing with people, many of whom had name tags with their real names and their DCist user IDs. Thanks Kyle for the invitation. Congratulations to the DCist crew on such an astounding success.