In Benedict Anderson´s Imagined Communities he traces the origin of nationalism back to the decline of religious communities and dynastic realms, the explorations of the non-European world which ´widened the cultural and geographical horizon´, gradual demotion of sacred languages and finally the arrival of print-capitalism with the book and newspaper as cultural products written in vernaculars. (IC, ch. 2)
Today´s imagined communities, whether national or not, are most likely imagined through the internet which has in many ways replaced the book and the newspaper in Anderson´s theory. Transnational networks are formed on sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Myspace which at first sight might seem to be undermining the national community. The internet allows people to explore the world and exposes them to different cultures, particularly in the English language which might seem to be becoming the dominant world-wide technological ´sacred language´.
Is this development undermining the many national identities of the world while enforcing a supra-national cosmopolitan identity upon the users of the world wide web? A world-community? Restrictions and censorship on internet sites, such as those that have been enforced in China among other places, on Facebook, Youtube and Google, clearly shows that this is considered a current threat to some national communities.
But at the same time as the internet seems to be erasing national boundaries, it is also bringing ´national´ diasporas closer together. It may be said that due to the loss of physical contact the imagined communities of diasporas over the internet are even stronger, more visual and clearly imagined.
By Anderson´s definition ´communities are to be distinguished, not by their falsety/genuineness, but by the style in which they are imagined´. The imaginations of a community through the web might seem more ´false´to someone but does that really matter? Does cohabitation matter in the imagining of communities?
The building of a Moroccan diasporic community online is an interesting example. The internet portal Yabiladi (which means My Country) is a portal for the Moroccan diaspora and is ranked on the web as the first popular site visited by Moroccan migrants from all around the world. Daily visits on the site are around 250.000 but the Moroccan diaspora is thought to range between 2.500.000 and 7.000.000.(see Loukili, Amina, “Moroccan diaspora, Internet and national imagination.” Research Article presented at the Nordic Africa Institute, Uppsala, Sweden, 5-7 October, 2007)
The discussion forums, pictures and news that especially focus on this group of people are all tools for building a strong sense of community based on a common origin and exclusive to those speaking Moroccan dialect, French or Spanish. Moreover, the forum creates an opportunity to discuss controversial issues that in their ´homeland´ are likely to be repressed by censorship.
A web community like that of the Moroccan diaspora creates an imagined community that is based on the feeling of a national homeland but that is effectively transnational. The feeling of a ´deep horizontal comradeship´ that Anderson sees as one of the main characterisation of the imagined community is probably at its strongest in the web community.