Dale Carnegie, Consumers, and Communitas

Is the Internet, as we’ve seen it described in our readings, and perhaps also as we’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 “neither here no there, betwixt and between…”. They are “in and out of time…” offering a blend of homogeneity and comradeship”. As the Routledge Encyclopedia of Religious Rites, Rituals, and Festivals outlines it, the bonds of communitas are “felt at liminal times and are undifferentiated, egalitarian, direct, extant, existential…” “The experience matters much….It does not merge identities”. It seems as if during liminality, communitas – 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 DeFlem– “Communitas appears where structure does not” (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 “a 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 circumstances”.

If the Internet is liminal – which Barbatsis, Fegan, and Hansen (1999) also seem to imply than what can we do to experience, perhaps even create “communitas” 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 – to make the connections between individuals in this liminal period – to help people in the Western world – a world virtually devoid of formal ritual and rites to mark the passages of time – to connect. We need to translate back from moving users to customers as Jason recommends in his blog. We need to look at Jason’s source (and I don’t mean “The Source” for all you Matrix/CPSC aficionados out there), i.e. Dale Carnegie – to win friends (and perhaps to create community?) we need to ask people to do something for us.

If it is the case that “a transaction makes a customer” (Jason’s blog) and “a fulfilled request forms a friendship” (Carnegie) then perhaps a “ritual interaction creates a community member” … or at least starts the process.

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