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Online Community Culture
    2007-01-08 10:17:00     CRIENGLISH.com

Broadcasting time:2007-01-07 

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As Internet usage continues to grow in China, new online communities are springing up all over the country. They're helping to shape a whole new community culture, with bulletin boards on a range of subjects, like shopping, entertainment and volunteer work opportunities. Today, CRI's XXX will take an in-depth look at this brand new phenomenon.


Reporter: The new "Ocean Landscape" residential district locates in western Beijing. The home owners have already had their own online community forum called Ocean Landscape Home long before the first group of them moved in. More than 5,500 users have registered under their own online call names, as well as their building numbers.


Each building has one to three managers tasked with looking after the property. "Landscape Lover", the manager of one of these buildings, told me what he thinks of the online community.


"The network has given an opportunity, a space, for everyone to exchange their ideas online. It gives everyone an opportunity to learn about the issues affecting their homes, discuss them with each other, and even settle disputes. Many people wouldn't know each other if they actually met, but they communicate well online. It's not a face-to-face exchange, but it helps. You can find groups of people who share your interests on the web, which is impossible in real life because you would have to look through closed doors. People have formed lots of associations and groups in our community through the website. All city people need a circle of friends and I think the demand for this kind of networking will stimulate the development of the online community."


In the 70s and 80s, most Chinese people lived in courtyard homes with close-knit communities where the neighbors helped each other out. They even have a saying for this kind of culture, "a close neighbor is better than distant relative".


But urban areas started redeveloping quickly as the reform and opening-up policies were implemented. Today, many people live behind closed doors in high-rise apartments with no idea what their neighbors are called. Since the 1990s, immigrants from all over the country have rushed to Beijing, eager to study, work and settle in the national capital. The city today is a cosmopolitan mix, but few people in modern communities have deep ties to each other. In the absence of traditional neighborhoods, online communities are particularly important, helping people regain the sense of community they've lost.


A young man who goes by the online moniker of "Agu-na-me-ta-ta" owns one of the flats in "Ocean Landscape". He moderates a forum called "Everything Can Be Discussed Here.


"During the World Cup, I was the manager of a forum for the World Cup. I started it because football is my hobby. Then I became the moderator for the forum, Everything Can Be Discussed Here. There's broad scope for establishing neighborly relations through the web. It also makes it easy to find people you like. Community forum helps us to know our neighbors and feel safe with each other. We can also meet each other through organized sports events and parties."


There are many differences between traditional neighborhood communities and the online community in the virtual world. Information is disseminated through an Internet community much faster than it is in the real world. People who ask questions on community websites always receive a quick reply. And lots of people forge friendships faster online than in a traditional neighborhood.


Online communities host forums on a wide range of subjects C from politics and law, to community news and investment C so everyone can contribute to a topic that interests them.


In the Tian Tong-Yuan Community in Northeastern Beijing, a lady who calls herself "Blue Velvet" online hosts a cooking show within the community network. She loves to cook and often discusses how to concoct delicious dishes on the site. She invites everyone to taste her work and all her online buddies call her "sister Lan".


She says she's upgraded her cooking skills with her online friends' encouragement and support. Now she wants to enter the food industry and write a culinary blog.


"I feel the community website is the best stage to show off my cooking technique because the human heart needs people who appreciate you and admire you. It gives you comfort and satisfaction. It's difficult to do something all by yourself. The community site also gives you a sense of security, because you don't need to be scared if we do something together."


It's easy for neighbors to unite to work towards a common goal when they have an Internet connection. Hui-long-guan is an enormous community in north Beijing. The online community has more than 17,000 registered users and almost 100 forums. A lady called Blue Bird and her online friends on the community are working together to create a library within their community.


"Because we're a new community, we don't have a place for children to play and interact like other communities. The community decided we couldn't wait for one to be built because children grow so quickly; we had to take action now. Our first idea was to build a library together. We all contributed our family books, children's books and pregnancy books to the library. Everyone supported the idea as soon as it was raised."


Looks like the traditional Chinese saying "close neighbors are better than distant relatives" is getting a new lease of life on the web.




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