Content-type: text/html ~ Stephen's Web ~ Existing Virtual Communities

Stephen Downes

Knowledge, Learning, Community

Jan 03, 1997

Posted to HotWired 4 Jan 97

In fact there are virtual communities populating the internet, and they've been around for the last decade or more. They are called MUDs (Multi User Dimensions).

I am a member of one such community. Founded well before the advent of the web, we logged on using telnet to a space called Muddog, based at the University of Florida. The 'Dog closed down about two and a half years ago and so we migrated to Vargon MUD, based at Johns Hopkins. When Vargon closes down no doubt we will migrate again.

Permanence for our community has nothing to do with ownership. Although it would be nice to own our own server, just as it would be nice to own a house, we are nonetheless vagrants in cyberspace, occupying a niche here and a niche there as it comes open.

Our community is based on earthier values. We stick together because we have grown to know and like each other. We have shared interests and our own warped sense of humour. Common icons, like the Secret Spy Shades, follow us from place to place. And we have a sense of group memory, as is evidenced by the recent set of Muddog-related posts on the Vargon board.

The two previous posts in this thread seem to assume that in order for a community to exist, there must be some thing which binds them together - an ownership of content or of the server itself. The existence not only of MUDs but also of communities based around IRC channels speaks against this.

What makes a community, on-line or not, is the voluntary and continued association of a group of people. Prior to the internet, communities were necessarily rooted in a physical space. But on-line, any cyberspace will do.

If you care to visit Vargon, go to

Stephen Downes Stephen Downes, Casselman, Canada

Copyright 2024
Last Updated: Jul 18, 2024 8:32 p.m.

Canadian Flag Creative Commons License.