We become members of communities in different ways. Sometimes we join voluntarily; sometimes we are automatically included. At times belonging is about what we do, or it is about what interests us, and it can just be about who we are.
Today’s post is about things happening with my groups. The news is about my self-interest, involving some of my own virtual “memberships,” but you might also be affected or interested. Note that I am using the word virtual as defined in the Random House Dictionary:
“3. temporarily simulated or extended by computer software: a virtual disk in RAM; virtual memory on a hard disk.”
Because I participate in the blogosphere, I worry that the issue of “network neutrality” is not yet settled . According to AP News on MyWay.com, there is much at stake for us in the internet community.
A Democratic takeover on Capitol Hill would be good news to those who say the government should prohibit telecommunications giants from playing favorites with Internet content.
The idea, known as “network neutrality,” is about preventing those who control traffic on the Internet from allowing well-heeled Web sites to in effect buy their way to the front of the line in a world where data flow can be as congested as Los Angeles traffic. Proponents say it should be a bipartisan issue.
. . . The issue pits those companies – including AT&T Inc. (T) and Comcast Corp. (CMCSA) – against a well-organized grass roots campaign that is joined by some of the nation’s biggest Internet success stories, such as Google and eBay.
Net neutrality advocates say the “Internet’s First Amendment” is at stake. They argue that if those who run the network are allowed to discriminate against Web traffic based on which sites pay them the most, it will strangle the Internet’s freewheeling, democratic nature.
Because I am fascinated by robots and “space,” my eye was drawn to this MSNBC story about an international robot climbing competition sponsored by NASA for the student engineering community. At one point members of different teams decided to collaborate.
Friendliness and frustration
Some competitors struck deals to help each other out. For example, teams from Spain and Germany lent their searchlights to the Saskatchewan team for its best-of-show, 57-second run. The Space Pirates recruited rival teams to man their mirrors, and in return lent the use of the mirrors for other prize attempts.
“When I started out, it was all about me winning the competition,” Space Pirates captain Brian Turner told MSNBC.com. “As I struggled, it became more about the competition being won.”
Because I am a Democratic party retiree who receives Social Security, I am included in the retired “Senior” community as well as belonging to the party. Therefore I perk up my ears when I hear (read in the WaPo) that our bedrock benefit may come under scrutiny again by our current president (OCP).
But with just two weeks to go until the Nov. 7 congressional elections, Democrats highlighted Bush’s comments, seeing an opportunity to remind voters about a Republican proposal that polls have shown is highly unpopular with many voters.
“Just when you thought your Social Security was safe from privatization, George Bush is bringing back his plan to privatize Social Security and cut guaranteed benefits,” declared a news release from the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, the party’s fundraising arm for Senate races.
Democratic strategists were gleeful about the chance to draw a sharp distinction between the parties on Social Security, an explosive issue among elderly voters. “I couldn’t believe it. What an opening,” Democratic pollster Celinda Lake said. “I think he had an out-of-body experience.”
The thing about all the three groups discussed is that they are mostly “virtual” for me. My social security check is electronically deposited in my bank every month. I do not go to Senior Citizen Centers and, therefore, do not interact personally with many Seniors. I participate in “space” via the TV show, “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” or watch the activities of our space program on the NASA TV channel. My interaction with robots involves my home appliances (that are electronic and rather primitive, at best). We do not often enough see our good friends, one of whom is an engineer. And I am embarrassed to admit that I gave up actual participation in local party politics when my state went almost totally Republican. My blogging is, of course, totally virtual.
The virtual community is useful and satisfying, but only to a degree. As a Social Worker I was trained to understand the importance of closer and more personal associations. Thus I am realizing the potential for isolation with membership in only virtual communities. So I think I need to “get outa here,” and go to a meeting.