I could tell you how many steps make up the streets rising like stairways, and of the degree of the arcades' curves, and what kind of zinc scales cover the roofs; but I already know this would be the same as telling you nothing. The city does not consist of this, but of relationships between the measurements of its space and the events of its past...A description of Zaira as it is today should contain all Zaira's past. -Italo Calvino, Invisible Cities

Monday, August 15, 2005

Community and Voyeurism

A couple of months ago a wrote about virtual communities, and mentioned a working moms bulletin board. My visits there are infrequent at best, and while I have been known to post, it is not often. But I recently realized that when I do navigate there, I am reading other people's problems...and while it is not exactly entertainment, but there is a bit of "thank goodness I don't have issues like these" going through my head. And a desire to read on to know the details behind these stories. I will also admit that this realization will probably make my visits to this bulletin board less frequent than they already are.

At the same time, I have a belief (based in my anthropological background, I like to say) that gossip is a natural part of human existence. Maybe that is what celebrities are good for--so we can gossip about people who aren't our friends, family, and co-workers. Maybe there is evolutionary advantage in gossip, as some argue, in the thought that knowing what the rest of your tribe is up to keeps you all safe and out of danger.

But in the end, I guess I will have to fess up to being a bit of a voyeur in the virtual world.

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