Creating the Internet as Alternative Media:A Study of
the Role of Gay Virtual Community in
Professor, Department of Mass Communication,
The symbolic and real impact of the alternative media in the Taiwanese
transition is perhaps best illustrated by its role in an event that transpired
in the 2000 presidential election period. Not only did news coverage of
alternative media help to promote the advocacy of opposition party, but it also
stood as a symbol of how far political change in
Keywords: Internet, alternative media, virtual community, gay movement
Alternative media open up different types of communicating ways by more active and positive access to announce opinions and feelings of minorities. When mainstream media has traditionally spoken to and for the homogeneous middle, alternative media also have created spaces for alternative voices that provide the focus both for specific community interests as well as for the contrary and the subversive (Kessler, 1984).
The Internet has grown during 1990s from a tiny medium of communication, to a flourishing medium of political advocacy. In contrast to most popular media, the Internet's greatest power is its ability to equalize people. However, it is a powerful interactive tool of political communication. As computers become more affordable, and Internet access fees decrease more people will join the Internet community. Thus, the Internet community will be more representative of the general population. As a whole, the Internet is a crystal light of society; those with more power and resources will have a bigger space (Atton, 2002).
In this paper, we will analyze the significant features of alternative media in Taiwan since the Internet age came; even after the opposition party – DPP (Democratic Progress Party) seized the ruling power in 2000, and predicts the future trend of alternative media development and virtual communities used by social movement groups n Taiwan. Many of the discussions about social movement webs (SMW), however, have been speculative. A handful of empirical studies have concentrated on Europe or the United States (Calhoun, 1998; Pickerill, 2001; Rheingold, 1995). The situations in other parts of the world have been examined sparsely (Camacho, 2001). This paper intends to contribute to this important debate by exploring some of the micro-level issues. It will report the findings of the web pages launched by social movement groups in Taiwan, and unstructured interviews with representatives of social movement groups. To analyze more systematically the Internet’s potential for diversifying the information we receive, we will go through the SMWs and identify their latest public actions.
Definition of Alternative Media
There is, however, no doubt that it is different to define, or contain in a definition, something as diverse as alternative media. Ambrosi (1991) stated that alternative communication is primary a reaction against dominant order, and points out “countering the tendency to diminish the role of the State and to transnationalize economy and culture, alternative communication is associated with the resurgence of national and cultural identity movements, with giving voice to rural populations in the South, with the appearance of new agents of civil society on the political scene. Although not in itself the bearer of social change, alternative communication is at the center of many struggle of democratic functioning in our societies, both in the north and in the south” (p. 13). Nowadays, as Ambrosi (1991) indicated, technological changes have made it more possible, and cheaper, to use new equipment, but this does not mean however that the process of creating media has been democratized, something which is an essential part of the agenda of alternative media groups.
In so doing, alternative media forms attempt to resist, question and contest the relative hegemony of the mainstream, which is also seen as being vertical, uni-directional and non-participatory. Alternative media are part of a much more horizontal process: not only democratization and demystification of the processes of making media, but also being at the very heart of struggles for democracy and social change (Atton, 2002). Their stakes are very clearly with the people, unlike those of the mainstream, which can often be said to be with the State, although they may occasionally address themselves to the people.
Alternative public sphere would seem an appropriate theoretical foundation for such phenomena in its formulation of a nexus of institutions that work together without parliamentary influence, to enable the public to address and debate political and social issues independently of the state (Atton, 2002). The nexus of institutions inevitably includes the media; the alternative public sphere treats its media and the constituencies they serve and inform as inseparable.
The notion of the public sphere has become an important reference point for contemporary discussion of democratization in communications. As conceived by Habermas (1979), it was a network of institutions within civil society, which created a space for rational debate enabling the formation of public opinion.
Atton (2002) indicated that the ability to express and publish opinions in the alternative media is radically different from the situation in the mass media. Whereas access to the mass media by readers is severely limited, in the main being through letters the editor, the alternative media claim a democratic, participatory ethos, where readers are very often able to contribute articles and take part in editorial decision-making, even becoming editors themselves. Agger (1990, p.36) termed such an ethos as 'intellectual democracy' which is essential to halt the decline in discourse that he identifies as a key element in the withering of the dominant public sphere. Here are Nancy Fraser's (1992) 'subaltern counter-publics' engaging in 'parallel discursive arenas' in order to 'invent and circulate counter-discourses to formulate oppositional interpretations of their identities, interests, and needs' (p. 123).
I have argued that 'the alternative public sphere' is an appropriate conceptual foundation from which to understand the production and reception of autonomously developed accounts of experience, critiques, information and knowledge which are from alternative media.
The Rise of Pluralism and Social Movement Politics in Taiwan
Rapid social changes occurred in Taiwan during the 1990s and beyond. The result of legislative election replaced many mainland-elected old KMT supporters with younger, Taiwan-born, well-educated representatives intent on democratizing Taiwan. In the late nineties, social changes became more acceptable, changes that often followed in the footsteps of democracy and prosperity. Most particularly, there was a call for more individual freedom and personal expression.
The moderate DPP-line continued after Chen Shui-bian won the ruling power for the presidential elections in 2000. He made it even more clear than the DPP-leadership had earlier that the party did not wish a formally independent Taiwan if it would endanger the people in Taiwan. On the other hand, the rapid political transformation in Taiwan presents a particularly relevant context for a discussion of the identity politics of visibility.
One of the significant social movements is the identity politics from the social movement groups. The lifting of martial law brought about some freedom for social movement activists, and the rise of the Internet has tremendous impacts on social movement in Taiwan.
Since martial law was lifted in 1987, Taiwan has moved actively to improve the value of human rights. The changes in politics and relaxation of the KMT government’s control of the media signaled an unprecedented opening for a plurality of voices in Taiwan (Lee, 1998). After the 2000 presidential election, the function of main alternative media in the 1990s – alternative radio are gone after the former opposition party got the ruling power, the leading role of alternative media activists turn to social movement groups leaders.
The revolution in information and communication technology (ICT), together with the attending process of globalization, has induced far-reaching social and political transformations. At the macro level, the revolution in ICT is said to have given rise to a new economy and a new politics. New politics, in particular, means that identity and culture have replaced class and material interests as the causes of social conflicts (Castells, 1998). At the micro level, ICT and the Internet in particular is considered to have given a voice to the weak and powerless, facilitated their mobilization, expanded the repertoires of collective action, and contributed to the advancement of civil society (Naughton, 2001).
As we mentioned, computer-mediated communication has been variously described as anonymous, de-centered, and placeless-- terms that imply unprecedented potential for social movements in the information age. However, this technological potential is influenced by the specific conditions in which social movements are embedded. The Internet has grown from a tiny medium of communication, to a flourishing medium of political advocacy. Access to the alternative media encourages self-producing, whereby former participants may create their own websites or discussion boards quite independently from one another, with minimal outlay. There is less restraint on form.
In contrast to most popular media, the Internet's greatest power is its ability to equalize people. Regardless of race, color, gender, age, isolation, abilities, or sexuality, people are all equal in the virtual world. Unlike other broadcast media, the Internet does not use scarce spectrum. However, it is a powerful interactive tool of political communication. The Internet allows millions of individuals to express their opinions through e-mail, chatting, or posting their personal Web sites. As computers become more affordable, and Internet access fees decrease, more people will join the Internet community. Thus, the Internet community will be more representative of the general population. As a whole, the Internet is a crystal light of society; those with more power and resources will have a bigger space (Atton, 2002). The minority groups are making an active use of the Net, mainly because of the commodification of identity.
Nowadays alternative media have created new spaces for alternative voices; social movement activists have also proved fertile ground for alternative media production. These various struggles make social movement groups have demands for using alternative media, and make alternative media more versatile than before. Recent simple and cheap technologies enable minority groups to establish their own computer-mediated websites as the main alternative media discussing about controversial political and social issues in order to reach their goal of social movement.
Definition of Virtual Community
Being part of a virtual community means more than merely having a group of people communicating online, and community is based on a sense of belonging. Jones (1997) established four qualities that he feels characterize these virtual communities. These qualities could just as easily define a geographically bound community as well. According to Jones (1997), virtual communities distinguish themselves from a simple online gathering when they feature:
1. A minimum level of interactivity.
2. A variety of communicators.
3. Common public space.
4. A minimum level of sustained membership.
These features establish virtual communities as forums for communicating and relating to multiple people in ways that their contributors find meaningful.
In order for a virtual community to exist, there must be a flow of messages among the participants. If one individual were to post a web site and no one were to comment on it, there would be no basis for a virtual community. However, when a poster gets a comment and then responds to it, and then the original sender responds again, it will have the interactivity among participants. Interaction between two individuals can establish a relationship, but more contributors need to join the conversation for a virtual community to arise (Hamilton & Gordon, 1999)
Although they are not situated in a physical location, virtual communities still need to identify with a cyberspace. Jones (1997) suggested that there are the forums in which the community participants most regularly engage in communication. In the early days of CMC, BBS were the place where individuals went to post, read, and respond to messages. Now chat rooms serve the same purpose, but allow people to interact in real time rather in delayed messages. Furthermore, the virtual community exists for those who have some ongoing relationship with the other participants. One visit or simple exchange does not constitute membership in a virtual community (Wood & Smith, 2001). Rather, those who from the virtual community have relationships to one another that are perpetuated through time.
Analyzing Taiwanese Social Movement on the Net
Taiwan’s liberal political environment after 2000, the presence of vast number of social movement groups, and its high level of e-readiness might lead to the expectation that many groups have taken advantage of the ICT revolution. After an extensive search, which begins with identifying relevant web pages with the search engine “google” and follows by going through the hyperlinks generated by the initially identified web pages, the following numbers are found to have launched web pages (see Table 1). As there has been no reliable estimation of the population size of environmental groups in the territory, we do not know whether the figure represents a high or low Internet utilization rate.
Table 1 Numbers of Taiwanese Social Movement Group Websites
Total Generate hyperlinks Discussion board
29 29 (100%) 29 (100%)
26 26 (100%) 26 (100%)
28 28 (100%) 28 (100%)
29 27 (93%) 28 (97%)
10 8 (80%) 9 (90%)
11 9 (82%) 8 (73%)
12 11 (92%) 10 (83%)
11 9 (82%) 11 (100%)
Last Retrieved Date: January 11, 2005. Search from http://www.google.com
The social movement groups are relatively resourceful by local standards; most of the web sites are well maintained. For instance, about 90% of the environmental organizations, 85% of the labor organizations, and 90% of gay/lesbian groups have updated their web pages in the three months immediately before the author visit them for the last time in January 11, 2003.
Apart from these technical problems, it is important to note that a substantial number of the groups and organizations have taken full advantage of the Internet as a source of information. As indicated in Table 1, 100% of the gay/lesbian, environmental, and women's right sites and over 80% of the other social movement sites have generated hyperlinks to “related organizations”, local or global. When the links are provided, most of them are comprehensive and organized in a logical way.
It is regrettable that not all the organizations have taken advantage of the Internet’s characteristic of time-space compression and try to reach out to the world. Specifically, all websites from any social movement groups are available in the Chinese language alone. A plausible explanation would be that some of the social movement groups have only had their potential or even existing members residing in Taiwan as the target readers of their sites. Yet this illustrates even more clearly that the social movement groups have not fully explored the potential of the Internet as a mechanism to share information and promote public support across time and space.
Despite the above shortcomings, it remains the case that a substantial number of these groups and organizations have used the Internet as an alternative to the conventional media, such as newspaper, magazine, and television, to enhance public awareness of their presence, to broadcast their goals, their achievements, and their positions on controversial issues. The extent and effectiveness of the organizations’ usage of the technology have of course varied tremendously. For instance, all the environmental organizations have used their web sites to explain their goals; many have detailed the incidents leading to the formation of their organizations or even their sources of finance. All of them have used their web sites to explain their purposes and detail their history. Some labor unions that have been formed for over several years have generated rich and interesting historical recollections. In the past, these organizations have relied on newsletters and special publications to achieve the same purposes. The Internet presents a potent alternative media for advocacy.
One way in which the Internet could be used to shorten the distance between the social movement groups and interested parties and to enhance networking is to provide a forum for direct conversation. All of the gay/lesbian, environmental, and women's right sites and over 70% of each kind of other SMWs have provided discussion areas in their web pages (see Table 1). It is notable that both the quantity and quality of the discussion have varied. The discussion area has attracted the most heated and focused debates when it is devoted to a specific issue. While some of the discussions were no more than exchanges of insults, many touched on matters of principles and the forum had served to broaden public participation in the discussion of important policy issues. We will discuss this point in following case study of examining gay virtual community.
Case Study: Creating Gay Virtual Community as Alternative Media
As we said above, there are several dramatic changes in Taiwan politics since the Internet began. The potential of the Internet to enhance the plurality of the public discourse and to present the viewpoints of the social movement groups becomes most apparent when the groups are involved in controversial public issues. This might happen when the government announces a new legislation, when the organizations issue a research report to press for reform, or when they protest against actions taken by the government or private corporations.
Among the use of social movement groups on the Net, one significant phenomenon in the 1990s is that identity politics from the gay/lesbian supporting groups. Compared to labor, community, national independent, aboriginals, environmentalists, women, and educational reform movement groups, the gay/lesbian group is the most marginalized one by mass media in Taiwan, and the group is also the most important one for mobilization use on the Net (Chen & Lin, 2001, p.77). In order to examine how the social movement groups use virtual community as alternative media successfully, it is important to conduct case study of gay virtual community in Taiwan.
Background of Gay Right Movement in
The lifting of martial law brought about some freedom for Taiwan’s gays and lesbians. While the dismantling of military rule began in Taiwan in the early 1980s, Taiwan’s desire to appear internationally as a modern democratic society has produced attempts at liberalization in many areas, including sexual politics (Patton, 1998). In Taiwan the first openly gay/lesbian group was established in 1990, and by the mid-1990s there was a steady output of queer novels, films, and magazines, Taiwanese gay and lesbian activists drew upon a long history of same-sex cultural activities and representations (Wang, 1998).
Since then, the gay right movement has been progressing and expanding. In 1996, Taiwan writer Hsu Yu-sheng and his American lover Gary Harriman held their wedding in a Taipei hotel, drawing 400 friends as well as local and foreign reporters. In the same year, Taiwan opened its first gay church and launched its first gay magazine – G & L Magazine. In June of 2000, gay movement activist and talk-show host Jan Jin-yen formed the Taiwan Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Association, marking the first gay rights organization with official registration. The need for gay and lesbians groups is to become better organized and systematic in their efforts so that they can provide even more help to those gays and lesbians in need. In 2000, the first gay festival opened in Taipei City, and Taipei Mayor Ma In-Chju said “gays and lesbians should not be given special rights, but they deserve equal rights like other people (Deutsche Press, 2000).” In addition, at the same time President Chen Shui-bian received national and U.S. gay rights activists, it is the first time a Taiwan president has become involved in the gay rights movement.
In 2001 Parliamentary Election, two independent gay men registered for the election and run for office to fight for equal right for Taiwan’s gays and lesbians who still suffer from discrimination at work and in school. The two candidates also demanded that the government allow gays and lesbians to get married, adopt children and to enjoy equal right in all aspects of life (Chuang, 2001). In the meantime, forty gay groups in Taiwan had recommended 11 parliament election candidates who have agreed to promote gay rights if they are elected, and these groups used the Internet and Bulletin Board System (BBS) spreading their recommendation news. The venture is a significant step for Taiwan gay and lesbian virtual communication in the process of getting their voices heard by society. As in America, the gay community found some fuel in the courage of the women's movement in Taiwan, although there is much more disparity between the two culture groups (Wang, 1998). Women, long misused and underpowered in Taiwan, organized a concerted effort to claim more say in their personal and social destinies. As a result, in recent years, women have been elected to governmental positions, fought back against abuse, and started feminist organizations (Chun, 2000). If the women have moved boldly forward to make their voices heard, gays have crept slowly ahead under cover of dusk. Gay activism in the early nineties was still in a tentative stage, mostly centered on Taiwan's universities. Out in the streets, gay efforts were more of a discrete occurrence than a coordinated social effort such the opening of a bar or cafe which relied on word-of-mouth publicity rather than a grand-opening media announcement (Chen, 1998).
2. Historical Review
of Gay Virtual Community Development in
Although in the United States, ensuring that minorities have access to the mass media has become a vehemently debated topic in the communication and public policy fields, there are no such discussions in Taiwan (Yang, 1998). With the emergence of the Internet, gay communities have found an outlet as alternative media in which to voice their opinions and in which they can form a strong sense of community among themselves. In reality, the Internet has partially achieved what mainstream media have failed to do -- allowing the voices of gay and lesbian people to be heard on an equal and objective basis. With the Internet, gay and lesbian people have assumed the control of presenting their opinions in the public sphere of ideas without the mediation of reporters and existing media organizations (Wakeford, 1997). Currently, there are more than 13,000 Usenet newsgroups on the Internet dedicated to addressing the concerns of various segments in Taiwan society, and more than 400 computer bulletin boards can be found in Taiwan. The Internet may become the technology of freedom and liberation for the gay and lesbian communities in Taiwan.
While the activities of Taiwan’s gay and lesbian community in this new-found political consciousness have only recently begun to receive scholarly attention (e.g. Chang, 1998; Ding & Liu, 1998; Gian, 1998; Patton, 1998; and Yang, 1999), the issue of homosexuality entered into public discourse in the early 1990s with the establishment of Gay Chat at National Taiwan University. In March 1993, Gay Chat became the first officially registered and recognized gay student organization on Taiwan university campus (Han, 1995). The news of its establishment spread quickly throughout mainstream newspapers and television, and inspired students on university campuses. By 2002, there were more than 20 other gay and lesbian officially registered student groups at other universities. Until March 2002, there are 36 websites of gay and lesbian right groups in Taiwan; and 40 gay and lesbian college student clubs offer ‘MOTSS’ (Members of the Same Sex) - like discussion board on the Internet. From the beginning to update, these student-centered gay/lesbian organizations give the gay/lesbian movement in Taiwan a definitively youthful character.
From 1994 there has been a booming industry of queer writing, which made by authors who were still in college or graduate school. In the meantime, National Central University firstly opened a discussion board ‘MOTSS’ on BBS, and created virtual community for gay and lesbian people in Taiwan. In other words, the most popular sites are university-based BBSs known as MOTSS sites among gay virtual communities (Chen, 1998). This explains why the gay and lesbian movement is so visible, partly through the computer-mediated- communication. This is a different type of movement, unlike the late eighties street demonstration (Li, 1996). The cultural atmosphere was mediated through commodity structures.
Table 2 Development of MOTSS and its Characteristics
Characteristics of this period
(April 1994 – November 1994)
Four BBSs opened MOTSS for gay and lesbian people as the beginning, and the four discussion boards could transfer their discussion messages to each other.
(November 1994 – April 1995)
There were more MOTSS boards created than last period, and most of them had the function of transferring their messages to other MOTSS.
(May 1995 – July 1995)
MOTSS was more localized than before, it focused more on local issues instead of just transferring messages. Every MOTSS began to develop its own characteristic.
(August 1995 – present)
Besides MOTSS, there were some specialized discussion boards appearing on BBS. For instance, Homosexual_Theology, Queer-Writing, Queer-Chat, Queerteacher, Bearlover, Lesbain Paradise, etc.
MOTSS and other significant gay/lesbian discussion board websites are capitalizing on this unprecedented visibility and have become the most popular gay/lesbian virtual community among Chinese-speaking gay and lesbian users today. Broadly, the issues in MOTSS span the public and private trajectories of queer life in Taiwan. The main concerns that receive feature treatment range from broad public issues to more personal issues of identity (Chen, 1998). Outside the university setting, the attention afforded homosexuality in the national media during the 1990s was remarkable too. Despite the persistent homophobia in the emerging discourse about homosexuality and AIDS, there were encouraging signs of an opening social and cultural space for gay/lesbian people in Taiwan. There has been a tremendous increase in gay-related websites and publications. The explosive growth of the Internet and inter-university networks created opportunities for BBS chat sites targeted to and supported by gay and lesbian people (Li, 1996). According to Chen’s (1998) and my observation, there are four periods in the development of MOTSS as showed in Table 2.
Amongst this wide range of high level of queer activity in virtual communities, much of the activity in Taiwan is focused on sites where high levels of interaction are possible. This creates sizable and substantial social formations within Taiwan’ emergent queer cultures that scholars call ‘online discursive communities’ (Berry & Martin, 2000). Online discursive communities have proved important tools for gay and lesbian activists. They use message boards to distribute information about activities and stimulate debate.
3. Examining Military’s Ban on Gays and Reaction from Gay Virtual Community (May 1, 2002)
(a) The Research Object
MOTSS of KKCITY (telent://bbs.kkcity.com.tw) is an especially interesting and productive site for the study of the issue of communities in CMC, as the issue of community has been the subject of a considerable degree of self-conscious reflection within the group itself. However, outside this case study, there is significant evidence this experience of community is not limited to MOTSS of KKCITY. Virtual communities are not simply an underground phenomenon significant for a particular oppressed minority. The single largest portion of MOTSS of KKCITY interaction is devoted to the discussion of issues. It also serves as a medium for the dissemination of news of interest to the rights of gay men and lesbians. Political issues, personalities, and research are among the types of news circulated through the net. Because of these functions within the gay virtual community, some of the topics and themes of these discussions may be apparent, such as current news issues about gay rights, AIDS, and romances, etc. This case study is a news story about gay rights appeared firstly, and then quickly the issue became debate and discussion among gay/lesbian virtual community. Of course, these debate and discussion in gay virtual community were transferred into visible protest and gave government policy-makers much pressure. Finally, cooperation of gay virtual community members reached their goal for policy change after visible and invisible struggling voices. That is the reason why we analyze this case here.
(b) The Fact
On May 1, 2002, local media uncovered the Armed Forces Police Command's (AFPC) ban on homosexuals serving as military police. According to the AFPC, the military police are responsible for the important tasks of guarding military and government installations, enforcing military law, maintaining military discipline, supporting combat troops and serving as supplementary police. For the sake of military discipline and order, therefore, it is inappropriate for "potentially dangerous elements" - such as those with Gender Identity Disorder (GID) - to serve as military police (Hsu, 2002). Such discrimination immediately drew criticism from the gay and lesbian community, as well as human-rights organizations across the nation. The policy change was announced after a local newspaper revealed the discriminatory practice, prompting gay right protest demonstrations in Taipei, the nation's capital. Facing strong protests from all sides, Minister of National Defense Tang Yao-ming said he would make sure the ban was lifted promptly. To avoid criticism for discriminating against gays, the military police also said that they would revise a rule, which excludes homosexual conscripts from serving as guards at the Presidential Office and other vital governmental buildings. Still, it is necessary for the armed forces to revise its attitude toward gay men and women serving in the military so that they can be treated equally and justly (Hsu, 2002).
(c) Reactions and Advocacy from Gay Virtual Community
The news summary is the common method for passing along news. The subscriber will pass along a brief synopsis of a news story, including some relevant facts, the persons involved, and oftentimes commentary. When the AFPC banned on homosexuals serving as military police, ANIKE (a computer center administrator), posted a ‘news story’ message in MOTSS of KKCITY, under the subject line “MILITARY’S BAN ON GAY (Message 1,692)” about the above news story. In response to this news, the news received several responses. The discussion then branched in two directions. One addressed the original query regarding “the right for gay men to serve in the military,” the other became a discussion on “bringing on the appropriate protest for gay right”. The first response was from a college student, Boycool, who posted the following:
It is the time to change the rule. The rule is not quite appropriate by current standards. The government has to revise it to show respect for the rights of soldiers, regardless of their sexual orientation. (Message 1,700)
In a follow-up message, Gofyy, a gay right movement leader, offered commentary on this “gay right” issue:
According to Article 20 of the ROC (Taiwan) Constitution, "The people shall have the duty of performing military service in accordance with the law." In Taiwan - which has a conscription system - all male citizens are liable for military service once they reach the age of 18, according to the Military Service Law. In 1994, the defense ministry officially stopped treating homosexuality as an illness. That being so, gay men, just like any other men on the island, have the obligation to perform military service in accordance with the law. In addition, they should also have the chance of being selected for the military police, which are considered the elite in the armed forces. (Message 1705)
Several other members presented their anger and regret on this issue, Iceman commented on the image of gay males as gangster to officers:
Unfortunately, due to the restriction, homosexual conscripts - along with gangsters, criminal offenders, drug addicts and Chinese immigrants - are barred from becoming military police due to "security concerns." (Message 1711)
Over the next day (May 2, 2002), several other subscribers added additional comments. One military veteran subscriber, Solider, offered information for Iceman’s doubt:
The above logic is ridiculous, as no evidence has shown that homosexuality is a threat to the military - not to mention that homosexuality and GID are different matters. In contrast, sexual harassment of female officers, military abuses and scandals involving heterosexuals frequently occur in Taiwan. Some of our heterosexual officers have committed major crimes, including rape and murder. Why didn't the military also exclude all heterosexuals from serving as military police for "security concerns?" (Message 1716)
Gman, a subscriber who was a law school student queried:
The ban on homosexuals is clearly a violation of basic human rights, especially working rights. According to Article 15 of the Constitution, "The people shall have the right to existence, the right to work and the right to property." To protect and promote human rights, President Chen Shui-bian has vowed to eliminate discrimination. To achieve this goal, the government came up with the nation's first "human rights white paper" - in an effort to show Taiwan's determination to uphold human rights. The military's ban, however, is just like a slap on Chen's face, as homosexuals are not even allowed to guard the Presidential Office or the president's home. Such a discriminatory measure will undoubtedly damage Taiwan's reputation in the world. (Message 1728)
At the same time, the day the new story issued from mass media, there is a message about “RECRUIT FOR PROTEST TOMORROW MORNING, HOT-BLOODED MEN!” from POKI (the name of Yu-Lin Lai used in cyberspace), the secretary-general of the Taiwan Tongzhi Hotline Association, one of main gay right movement groups. He posted this message and used hyperlink posting this message to other social movement websites:
We will protest the defense ministry order that gay men should be barred from becoming military police. Homosexuals should enjoy equal rights as heterosexuals, but this rule shows how hypocritical it is. We demand equal rights at work place, including the military. We will go to the defense ministry to delivery our protest tomorrow. Let us do it and join us! (Message 1698)
Within this above message written by POKI, there were more than 25 social movement, human right, gay and right movement groups, and college gay/lesbian organizations and websites supporting this protest demonstration. Then there were 18 “support” replies for this message, and asked how to join this protest demonstration. Besides the support for “visible” protest demonstration, there was another movement called joining signatures activity for “protesting against discrimination”. There were more than 100 persons signing their real names or user names on the MOTSS. Finally, they did group their protest demonstration in front of Ministry of Defense, and the same day they reached the goal that drops the ban on gays serving as military police personnel.
(d) Analysis: MOTSS as a Virtual Community and Alternative Media
In what ways do participants to establish, negotiate, and maintain a community use MOTSS? As a ‘virtual community’ form of alternative media, MOTSS provides a “public sphere” common ground for the sharing and discussion of issues important to the participants. Analyzed by using Braddlee’s theory (1993), the MOTSS discussion list is open to a wide range of communication, and participants may subscribe to the list for a period of months or years, this extended contact and communication fosters ties between the participants, and creates both a history and a common body of knowledge. In this community, subscribers are able to transcend the social and information limits of their place communities, and have been able to garner resources and support to aid them in pursuit of their lives. In this case, MOTSS does function as alternative media, and represent both a community to its subscribers and resource to the gay and lesbian community in Taiwan.
From this case, we can find that “online discursive communities” have proved important alternative media for gay and lesbian activists. They used message boards to distribute information about activities and issues as “alternative media”, and stimulated debate about gay right issues as “public sphere”. Moreover, some members of these communities got together communicating by the web and were visible for their right fighting. Of course, Taiwanese audiences that only use the mainstream media, regardless of sexual orientation, watched their action. Indeed, according to Lai’s experience, using gay virtual community as alternative media is a good way for gay/lesbian right and liberation movement in Taiwan. Regarding activism, however, the truth is that there has just been a small, but vibrant, gay and lesbian activist community in Taiwan since the 1987 transition to democracy. Activism seems to be lagging behind visibility. According to David Hu, an opinion leader in MOTSS, after so many years of danger and secrecy, the primary concern of the average Taiwanese gay men is still "finding someone to be with and having fun, not activism; the older generation is still heavily closeted, afraid coming out would endanger their career, family, or whatever they think is important. Most Taiwanese gay men overall are not crazy about coming out and politics, especially over-30-year-old gay males". After experiencing several gay right movement demonstrations, Lai indicated that most of visible gay and lesbian people in right movement are college students, “it is seldom seen that white-collar gay men join our visible movement, but they are major residents in gay virtual communities too,” Lai said. As we observe above, a common response to questions about the role of Internet technology in shaping users’ experience of their queer identities emphasizes how virtual gay community as BBS boards allow over- 30-year-old career gay males subject the rare opportunity to assert their sexual politics in the face of the homophobia of broader society. BH, a 38-year-old closeted gay manager in one stock exchange company, he related:
To me, ‘queer politics’ means something very progressive and active. You have to show up and speak out what you protest. Most career gay males do not go for that. Due to homophobia, I would rather be a net user living in the virtual community instead of coming out. It is the queer attitude that most members have in our gay virtual community. 
BH’s response goes beyond simply celebrating the freedom of cyberspace, suggesting that his very sense of himself as identifying with the outspoken gay politics from his experience as a net user. There are still other problems about gay identity politics in Taiwan, part of reasons is from family. “Even though we know that the gay movement has as solid a cause as any other, the fundamental problem is that most gays and lesbians do not want to be publicly identified”, said Wang Ping, secretary-general of the Gender/Sexuality Rights Association. Wang pointed out that “society as a whole still sees homosexuality as something dirty. In addition, it is natural for them to be fearful of being identified because they are afraid of the nasty consequences. As a society with Confucian roots, Taiwan has had fixed views about what the make-up of a family should be.” Even in modern Taiwan, traditional ways of thinking remain rooted in minds of parents and few would be able to accept one of their children being gay or lesbian. That is the reason why “coming out” is still a hot debate in gay virtual communities of Taiwan.
The other interesting phenomenon is found in this case, it is that gay/lesbian movement activists have found powerful allies in feminists. Unlike queers, women had been allowed to organize under martial law, so they initially had the best resources to lobby for change in governmental policy. “We got a lot of helps from feminist and women right movement groups; they came and joined our protest demonstration.” Lai said in interviewing. Besides the helps from social movement groups, the strategy of alternative media activists is to cooperate with the mainstream media. Lai pointed out that “it is necessary for gay right movement activists to ‘use’ mainstream media in order to make this demonstration being shown up in mass media. On the other side, mainstream media consider this protest demonstration as a big news story ” From this case, we can see that alternative media and mainstream media don’t have to contend with each other, they both also can cooperate in some social issues. Nowadays it is flexible for alternative media activists to manage the relationship with mainstream media, regardless of ideology and principle of managing alternative media. Above all, the main argument we have to raise is the formation of identities in this case study. Mantovani had argued that instead of being used to escape from offline selves, the net may function as a testing ground for ‘possible selves’ that can then inform offline identity (1996, pp. 123-27). In the case of gay/lesbian subjects, who face very serious obstacles in the construction of offline identities, this may be partly true in gay/lesbian virtual communities of Taiwan. However, there is still homophobia outside gay cyberspace.
Analysis and Conclusion
This study examines the dynamics of social movements as they are promoted and connected via hyperlinks among Internet websites and discussion boards. It is assumed that social movement websites represent purposeful extensions of their organizations, and that the hyperlinks provided on these pages represent strategic attempts to disseminate ideas and to accumulate resources. In addition to the sharing of information by the hyperlinks, the Internet is also considered a potent means for network extension and consolidation. A most important achievement of the Internet is to enhance internal communication.
After examining from the case study of gay virtual community, we find that social movement webs as gay communities use computer-mediated communication to construct their identities and communities on and even off the net. Obviously, gay virtual community also can function and mobilize well as the role of alternative media. Compared to other media forms, the evidence we suggest here is that CMC may offer the best opportunity for shared interactive communication among social movement groups. In general, this study supports the view that the Internet has empowered the organizations and expanded the repertoires of collective action. Indeed, the application of the Internet represents the outcome of negotiations among the technology, strategic choices of the social movement groups, and the social-cultural characteristics of the society.
At the organizational level, the Internet has indeed empowered the organizations by allowing them to economize on critical resources. For instance, prospective members could download application forms, organizations could send thousands of e-newsletters with the strike of a key, and committee members could save meeting time by using e-mails to discuss controversial issues in-depth. Nonetheless, not only has the digital divide prevented these organizations from using the technology more extensively, technological advancement by itself cannot change people’s habits and the Internet has remained a supplement to more conventional organizational practices. For example, most social movement groups (gay/lesbian, environmental, women's right, aboriginal right) have launched significant web sites. While few social movement pages were poorly maintained (labor), and many people still prefer paper version of the newsletters (Chen & Lin, 2001), and the lack of resources to keep away the hackers has prevented most organizations from running online application and fee payments.
Finally, we would argue that our findings on online discursive communities and possible selves in net use in Taiwan underline the need to rethink the ways in which we conceptualize Internet communications. In the case we have studied, it is seen that there neither is the same phenomena as Berry and Martin (2000) observed nor is it simply an extension of existing offline communities and identities. Instead, it is part of lived culture, informed by and informing other parts of users’ lives. In virtual community cultures of Taiwan, it will be a particularly substantial and dynamic component in the near future.
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 By public actions, we include protest, meeting with government officials and legislators, press conference, press release, and open letter to public figures. Some of the “actions” are part of a long drag-out event, yet only the latest actions have been selected for analysis.
 Interviewed with Daiwei Fu, 1 June 2002, Taipei City.
 This phenomenon still prevail regarding published research on gay and lesbian net use in Taiwan, theses research show that gay and lesbian people are among the net’s most enthusiastic users (McLean & Schubert, 1995; Shaw, 1997).
 Interviewed with Yu-Lin Lai, 16 June 2002, Taipei City. Lai is the secretary-general of Taiwan Tongzhi Hotline Association, one of main gay right movement groups in Taiwan.
 Taiwan 2001 Wanglu Shiyong Diaocha Huodong (‘The 2002 Taiwan Internet Use Survey’), http://taiwan.yam.org.tw/survey.
 As examples of direct action happened in 1997, a gay college student was interviewed on a variety TV show in Taiwan about coming out his sexual orientation. When this program aired, talk shows had already been delivering into the subject of homosexuality in Taiwan. The controversial aspect of the interview was that the young man’s mother was brought into the show, with no any idea of what was going to happen with her son. It was on this show that the son came out to his mother, and the mother then burst into tears suddenly. After the show was aired, there was public outrage from gay and lesbian groups about the commercialization of the queer subject on TV just for the sake of ratings. In the gay and lesbian virtual community, controversy erupted over the son’s insensitivity to the feelings of his mother and his irresponsibility in bringing family matters into the open public. Most obviously, MOTSS BBS sites were full of fervent and mostly negative commentaries about this event (Chen, 1998; Yang, 1998).
 MOTSS of KKCITY is the most popular discussion board for gay men in Taiwan. It can be considered a “gay community” in that this is descriptive of a characteristic held by most of its members in Taiwanese gay virtual communities.
 Interviewed with Yu-Lin Lai, 16 June 2002, Taipei City. Lai is the secretary-general of “Taiwan Tongzhi Hotline Association”.
 Interviewed with David Hu, 7 June, 2002, Taipei City.
 Interviewed with Yu-Lin Lai, 16 June 2002, Taipei City.
 Interviewed with Yu-Lin Lai, 16 June 2002, Taipei City.
 Interviewed with BH, 2 August 2002, Taipei, BH is the name his friends call him on the net.
 Interviewed with Wang Ping, 4 September, 2002
 Interviewed with Wang Ping, 4 September 2002. Despite Taiwan's increasing tolerance, conservative notions of sex and family life still prevail among the older generation, setting up a clash between a modern society that embraces diversity and an ancient culture that emphasizes conformity to traditional norms such as carrying on the family name. “Three things demonstrate a lack of filial piety,” goes a famous Confucian proverb. “The biggest one is not producing heirs.”
 Main purpose of the first feminist groups is to give lesbians a voice, and already supportive of poor women forced into prostitution, rallied behind both gay men and sex workers. They demanded that AIDS be fought by releasing information about the transmission of AIDS and safe sex, not by demonizing people who had it.
 Interviewed with Yu-Lin Lai, 16 June 2002, Taipei City.
 Interviewed with Yu-Lin Lai, 16 June 2002, Taipei City.