Nach fünf Jahren teilnehmender Beobachtung auf Facebook, My Space und Tribe.net hat die Kulturanthropologin Jenny Ryan ihre Masterarbeit in Form der schönen Website „The Virtual Campfire“ präsentiert.
Ryan zufolge sind die beliebten sozialen Netzwerke die Lagerfeuer von heute, die der vielbefürchteten Auflösung der öffentlichen Sphäre entgegenwirken.
Thousands of years ago, our early human ancestors gathered around campfires, creating communal hearths of warmth and light. There they might tell stories, converse about the day’s events, perhaps engage in shamanistic rituals involving plants, music and dance, or simply gaze silently at the flames in collective meditation.
Today, the fireplace in my family’s living room shares its centralizing power with the television, around which we gather with our laptops and cellphones by our sides. Our time spent together is increasingly mediated by new technologies, enabling new forms of storytelling, altering our processes of individual and collective identity formation, and extending the possibilities for creating and maintaining social relationships.
My central argument in this thesis is that online social networks can potentially serve as both places of the hearth and avenues to the cosmos. Over time, these sites function as personal records of one’s experiences and relationships. These archives are made up of a variety of forms akin to older modes of record keeping, such as address books, journals, diaries, photo albums, personal correspondences, and yearbooks.
Additionally, they serve as gateways to the greater milieu, enabling the circulation of information about the world and granting members the capacity to participate in various ways. For teenagers and marginalized groups, in particular, these sites can be safe spaces for exploring and experimenting with identity, as well as for connecting to new people and ideas.
Also Leute, laßt uns am betterplace-Lagerfeuer wärmen!