The “Online We”: from cognitive understanding to feeling

Gill tells several stories about the surprising fact that people develop a sense of ‘we’ in online environments. Such a “feeling of connectedness” in an online environment builds upon codes of conduct that have been established over time.

Shared time spent, duration of engagement, seems to be distinct for such feelings to emerge. In an online community an avatar can actually be ‘too close’, others expect response time not to be too long, and even a simple mailing list on which people (who do not know each other otherwise) post for over a year, can give a sense of “we” to the degree that people will make an effort to protect this sense of “we”. It seems that through a cognitive understanding at first, feelings emerge over time, argues Gill. There is a bridge between cognitive understanding and emergence of feelings, which functions at a very unconscious level, Gill continues. The notion that you are somehow present in presence of others seems to be fundamental. The sense of presence is very powerful in these contexts. Rhythm and synchronization apparently give a sense of flow in these environments. It remains to be seen whether this kind of shared sense of presence can be considered as acts of witnessing or not.