I love it when two seemingly unrelated interests suddenly have a connection.
On the one hand, I've been reading Hamlet on the Holodeck by Janet Murray as you may already know from these posts (1, 2). The subtitle is "the future of narrative in cyberspace" and I was hoping it would be all about cyber- or hyperfiction. The last couple chapters, however, have been mainly about virtual gaming groups, which is sort of interesting, too.
On the other hand, I've been wandering around the blogosphere and finding wonderful blogs like InfoTangle, where this incredibly well-written post
explains discusses the community aspects of the most popular Web 2.0 sites; how much a sense of community plays into the drive for these sites and services.
The night after I read InfoTangle's community post, I come across this passage in Murray's book:
Historically, spectacle tends to move toward participatory narrative in order to retain our attention, to lengthen the immersive experience. For instance, in the Middle Ages, the rituals of the church were extended into a folk dramatic form. Mystery, or miracle, plays were performed on wagons that rotated around the town; each episode was staged by an appropriate guild, with shipbuilders doing the story of Noa and cooks using their pots and pans to simulate the clatter of the Harrowing of Hell. The tradition survives today in parade floats and in the Nativity pageants still popular at Christmas. Renaissance masques, a secularized form of pageantry, were often performed by aristocratic guests at celebrations that ended with an unmasking and general dance. In the twentieth century, Halloween is widely celebrated as a giant participartory costume pageant. True to the ancient origins of the holiday, there are processions of costumed figures and a large component of neighborly participation.
In all of these traditions, participation in the spectacular event begins with ordinary people, rather than professional entertainers, donning a costume or mask. The mask sets off the participants from the nonparticipants and reinforces the special nature of the shared reality. It creates the boundary of the immersive reality and signals that we are role-playing rather than acting as ourselves. The mask is a threshold marker, like Harold's moon or the Jurassic Park boat. It gives us our entry into the artificial world and also keeps some part of ourselves outside of it.
Isn't that incredible? Her description of the pageants fits blogging (or any other Web 2.0 community) to a tee. We're all using the "masks" or pseudonyms and our blogrolls, flickr contacts, friends are all in the parade with us. Reading this passage after just reading InfoTangle's post was so timely.
I wonder just how much the "boundary of immersive reality" allows us to express ourselves in these little online communities in ways that we wouldn't in real life…