It is an undeniable reality—a good part of our lives have transcended their physical spaces and are now manifesting themselves in a different kind of space. A space with no windows or walls, this highly complex network of hubs and nodes is what we call cyberspace.
Hyper-connectivity, hyper-communication, and hyper-participation are but a few of the defining characteristics of cyberspace as we know it. The advent of Web 2.0 has been instrumental in encouraging the formation of the mosaic of virtual communities that exist today. It is within these diverse virtual communities that we begin to see an adaptation of many of our real-life behaviours and tendencies.
The concept of etiquette is something that can be dated back to the Ancient Egyptians. The code of conduct mandated by a group of people strongly influences what we do or don’t do, in fear of being ostracized. Taboo and stigma become the byproduct of etiquette and this is just as true in cyberspace as it is in our physical world. The evolution of real world etiquette into cyberspace netiquette demonstrates how naturally occurring and powerful social norms are to any community. Whether they are implicit or explicit, netiquette is something that is expected to be respected when we participate in our digital activities.
The almost absolute power netiquette has in how we conduct ourselves begs one important question: In a virtual arena, are social norms better regulators of behaviour than laws?
The array of digital platforms and tools available to us today are vast and varied. Each network has its own unique set of conventions that users abide by. There is no cyber police who is going to go after those WHO SEND E-MAILS IN ALL CAPS. But there is the harsh scrutiny of those from your virtual community.
Perhaps we can think of this as the most simple form of self-governance.
– Hidie Shaheen