Virtual Communities - All about Respect

Recently, I was admitted to hospital -- no-thanks to unusually strong Aussie flu. The complications developed due to the lack of salts in my body during a course of ordinary flu tablets. These salts, doctors explained, were knocked out by regular high-blood pressure medication which I had been taking for 5 years! With diarrhoea and some vomiting, the doctors at Ryde Hospital immediately administering sodium & potassium solutions with IV fluids. After discharge from hospital, my personal GP told me that the case, indeed, is quite a serious one. Fortunately, I never have had lost any consciousness throughout the 5 days of hospital time.

Though extremely weak on hospital bed, when I'm starting to recover, I think about watching TV or using computer/FB. The thing I find is that I might have been able to watch TV, but would not be able to use FB/Computers. I'd just then realized and appreciating how much energy and efforts that we have been putting in on these FB/Internet discussions.

Virtual Communities

The Online Virtual Communities, such as FB Groups, are actually not a new concept. These Virtual Communities had existed, in so far as I remember, since the advent of Internet & even before WWW. I remember as early as 1992 (the WWW was not invented yet ), there were e-mail lists and Bulletin Board Services, which forming up Online Virtual Communities. The Bulletin Board Services worked pretty much the same as current FB Groups. I would say I am rather fanatical about the freedom on Internet and that of Virtual Communities, which given any grassroots person an unfettered power to communicate (See. http://www.netipr.org/uneoo/the-grassroots-activism-and-internet ).

My understanding of "Community" is the recognition of one another as the individuals who has the focus on a specific theme. For example, the FB Groups on Offshore Detentions are made up of individuals who do have specific concerns about detentions of asylum-seekers offshore.

Participating in Communities

Posting of news and commentary is essential part of participating in these Virtual Communities. Whilst anyone in FB Group can post and share about any news or anything, the whole concept of meaningful participation in Community will comes into light based on the selection of content. The concerned individuals will only select the topic of news item or will make a thoughtful commentary relevant to the Community. This, in fact, is a non-violent political process undertaken in thoughtfulness and with respect. Firstly, the participant has given due respect to other members of Community in informing news and sharing thoughts. Secondly, the participant has given due respect to the main subject of the forum -- the situation asylum-seekers held in detention, for example. This is a respectful and conscious process, a non-violent political action which sets apart from spamming on Internet or airing about one's own personal grievances in public. Since these commentaries & analysis can be accesses free and open to all, unappreciated audience would criticized these Virtual Community discussion messages as "2 cents worth", "unsourced ?", "unreliable" and "waste of time". As you've already seen, any thoughtful message -- whichever way that has been received by -- has never been 'free'. Someone else had to invest considerable time and intellectual efforts in these messages.

A Conflict Resolution Platform

These thoughtful participation within a Community, though immensely valuable to most members, have rarely can produce tangible direct outcomes. To my 20+ years experience participating in this kind of Virtual Community, only on one occasion I did gain certain tangible knowledge. Otherwise, the outcomes are neither precise nor tangible.

During 2012-2015, the country wide breakout in Burma of the Buddhist-Muslim communal conflict originated from Arakan region, I was able to bring together some political activists from the Rohingya community and from the other side, with a desktop e-mail discussion list. With the help of this Virtual Community, I was able to survey and identify the issues of concerns. Together with ready availability of historic documents at your finger tips, thanks to Internet, I have been able to gain certain insights -- a break-through in some sense -- into the complex Rohingya political conflict. In this case, I have been able to utilised the Virtual Community as a platform for conflict resolution.

In retrospect, the direct outcomes for individuals participating in such Virtual Communities are rare that the objective should be scaled down to gaining mutual trust and respect within the members. The Virtual Communities usually formed generally on the issues that rooted in fundamental social/political conflcts. As such, the immediate resolution cannot usually be expected. Therefore the scaled down objectives could be termed simply as forming solidarity, gaining social friendship and mutual respects etc. Since the political outcomes are so few and far between, the only and much valued outcome for me is gaining friendship and solidarity within the community.

In sum, we cannot expect too-much or ignored as too-little for tangible outcomes when participating in these Online Virtual Communities. The immediate outcome, I would definitely say, is gaining friendship in trust and the solidarity in seeking justice. The participation in Virtual Community is about giving respect to each others, reciprocated as you continued to participate in these processes. -- Regards, U Ne Oo.

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