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Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Engadget: This is the Modem World: We're all a bunch of cranky old men

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Engadget
Engadget
This is the Modem World: We're all a bunch of cranky old men
Nov 22nd 2012, 01:00

Each week Joshua Fruhlinger contributes This is the Modem World, a column dedicated to exploring the culture of consumer technology.

DNP This is the Modem World We're All a Bunch of Cranky Old Men

I've been studying online communities since 1994, believe it or not. My master's thesis was called "Escape to Cyberia: Subcultures as Agents of Change." Go ahead, make fun of me for the title. It's cool.

But back then, no one -- or at least, very few people -- studied online communities as fodder for social science. I set out to prove that people could actually form social bonds and even social structures -- in this case subcultures -- online. I then went on to show that what happens online can affect what happens in the "real world." Several professors at the University of Chicago thought I was insane -- "Real world vs. online? What is this, 'Tron?!'" -- but I aligned myself with a forward-thinker named David Laitin who, too, was ready to accept our future robot overlords.

At the time, Usenet wasn't the dark, gritty back alley of the internet that it is now. Newsgroups were full of discussion, moderation and netiquette. They were, if you will, "where it was at." I was a daily contributor and reader of alt.mountain-bike, where at least 100 new messages about trails, bike maintenance and burritos kept my attention. It was, you might say, just like Reddit. Sorta.

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Written by Hasloo Network staff.