Is the Internet, as weâ€™ve seen it described in our readings, and perhaps also as weâ€™ve experienced it, a liminal state itself? Namely is the Internet a component or vehicle by which the process of liminality is being accomplished. As Turner (1995) describes it liminal states are â€œneither here no there, betwixt and betweenâ€¦â€. They are â€œin and out of timeâ€¦â€ offering a blend of homogeneity and comradeshipâ€. As the Routledge Encyclopedia of Religious Rites, Rituals, and Festivals outlines it, the bonds of communitas are â€œfelt at liminal times and are undifferentiated, egalitarian, direct, extant, existentialâ€¦â€ â€œThe experience matters muchâ€¦.It does not merge identitiesâ€. It seems as if during liminality, communitas â€“ what Tonnies would probably consider Gemeinschaft if only structure could be added to the underlying spirit — can be formed.
Interestingly enough, according to Turner as cited by DeFlemâ€“ â€œCommunitas appears where structure does notâ€ (1991). Given the much-criticized free-form (or structure-free) nature of the Internet, it seems that this lack of structure, would be conducive, at least according to some prominent anthropologists and social scientists, to the formation of communitas â€œa relational quality of full, unmediated communication, even communion, between people of definite and determinate identity, which arises spontaneously in all kinds of groups, situations, and circumstancesâ€.
If the Internet is liminal â€“ which Barbatsis, Fegan, and Hansen (1999) also seem to imply than what can we do to experience, perhaps even create â€œcommunitasâ€ during the period of potential? (NOTE if we accept the idea of the Internet as liminal, we need to consider that we have a limited opportunity to create/experience the potential communitas; according to theory the liminal period must eventually end and be replaced by structure, as part of the cyclical process).
Maybe if we want to enable community or communitas on the Internet we need to provide opportunities for engagement â€“ to make the connections between individuals in this liminal period â€“ to help people in the Western world â€“ a world virtually devoid of formal ritual and rites to mark the passages of time â€“ to connect. We need to translate back from moving users to customers as Jason recommends in his blog. We need to look at Jasonâ€™s source (and I donâ€™t mean â€œThe Sourceâ€ for all you Matrix/CPSC aficionados out there), i.e. Dale Carnegie â€“ to win friends (and perhaps to create community?) we need to ask people to do something for us.
If it is the case that â€œa transaction makes a customerâ€ (Jason’s blog) and â€œa fulfilled request forms a friendshipâ€ (Carnegie) then perhaps a â€œritual interaction creates a community memberâ€ â€¦ or at least starts the process.