in the Age of Media, Computers, and Internet
VIRTUAL COMMUNITIES VS IMAGINED COMMUNITIES.
Festivities. Reading, Chatting
The traditional phenomenology of reading presupposes a certain forms of the so called "implicit reader". From its methodological perspective this figure is seen as separate singularity of perception, as "lonely point of view" wandering through the text (so the early books of Wolfgang Iser) .
This study considers the "implicit reader" as partaking in a community - in an plural audience, which is implicit to the text, too. This rise the question about the nature, structure and function of this "fictional community" as well as about its relation to others communities - real or imagined.
As a kind of short "historical" detour the second part presents a Bulgarian debate which in the middle of the 80-ies followed some ideas of W. Iser There were two confronting positions about the nature of this "implicit audience" in the works of B.Bogdanov and Al. Kiossev. The first one considers the reading act as symbolic operation restoring the unity and universality of the world, similar to the mythological and religious festivities. This operation, so Bogdanov, poses the reading individium in a community consisting from equal and universal individuals - in a immagined communitas. The second position considers the reading act as a field of competing strategies and thus it see the implicit audience not so monolitic. It posed it in the tension between two limits - the universal communitas and the anonimous conventionality/ plurality of the typical reader's role.
In the next part the analysis goes further, re-considereing and revising all three positions mentioned. The methodological tool for this revision is the insight of Benedict Anderson's book The Imagined Communites. Anderson investigates the role and structure of the fictional reader's community, created in the great national novels during the late XVIII and XIX century. He demonstrates that these forms of fictional literary communication are necessary categories of the modern (national) solidarity and identification. They created the illusory existence of homogeneous collective space, through which there acts and communicates a homogeneous collective agent - a "people". But the illusion for a "homogeneous audience" proves to be a necessary and constitutive one, because it functions as symbolic form, mediating the very building of modern nations.
Anderson's analysis challenges the traditional ideas of phenomenology of reading, by questioning the very oppositions between "phenomenological" and "sociological", real and imagined, implicit reader's communitas and "external" real audience. It proves that the modern forms of "distant" solidarity and identification are, by necessity, dependent on forms of fictional, imagined, virtual "togetherness".
Given this dialectics between fictional collectives, real communication and modern forms of social identity, the last part of this paper can pose the problem of Internet and virtual networks in a new way. What is the role of the new "virtual communities" created by the World Wide Web? What is their difference in comparison to the traditional "imagined communities" and how functions the new identity building process? what are the types and kinds of the new Internet solidarity?. What are the consequences of their interactive character, what is the difference between reading and "navigating", "surfing" or "chating"? Does the literary fiction have any chance in the virtual world, and what are the relations between virtuality and fictionality?
The global virtual networks open new worlds - imagined as well as real Their strange combination between written, visual and oral communication, between anonymous and intimate human connections, enables the constitution of new forms of collective identity and will cause, maybe, the effacement of old ones.