A forum is a physical or virtual place that is used to meet and exchange ideas and experiences on various topics. The word forum comes from the Latin forum, which means square, market or public space. The Roman forum became in practice a meeting place and, therefore, for the exchange of ideas and opinions.
The historical meaning of the term
The Roman forum, known as the Magnum Forum, was located in the center of the city and was an eminently commercial place. Originally, the city of Rome had a single forum, but as it grew, other similar spaces were built, the Imperial forums. This type of urban precincts of the Roman world were inspired by the agora of Greek civilization, a place destined for commercial activity but also for political discussion and debate among citizens.
The historical meaning of the ancient Roman forums is not a simple relic of the past, since in Mediterranean culture and in Latin America the town squares fulfill the same functions as the ancient forums.
The current idea of forum
Ideas keep changing and evolving over time. We keep talking about forums, but in a different sense. Currently, the concept of forum is closely linked to the Internet and has to do with virtual discussion spaces that are used to exchange messages and opinions about applications and software, social problems, fan groups and others.
Two dimensions of the concept can be distinguished, one traditional and the other virtual. The traditional concept of forum is found in those contexts in which ideas are exchanged. Along these lines, universities organize discussion forums on very different topics, and the same happens in relation to politics (for example, discussion forums organized by political groups to prepare their electoral programs).
Virtual forums represent a new frame of reference. In them, the essence of what a forum is is maintained, but its possibilities are multiplied in every way (especially in terms of the number of participants and their capacity for interaction). Nowadays it is possible to participate in forums related to any subject (professional, sports or scientific, among many others).
The figure of the moderator
Virtual forums usually have a moderator. This figure is appointed by the administrator of the website who manages the discussion forum. The moderator is someone with extensive knowledge of the subject. Its function is not to censor the opinions of users but to improve the quality of the debate. It could be said that the moderator is a facilitator and an arbiter in the communication process. Your intervention is key for a forum to function properly.
The think tank, a new variant of the traditional forum
A think tank, which could be translated as a laboratory of ideas, comes to be a forum but with another name. Think tanks function as non-profit entities that promote the exchange of ideas and reflection on various topics. These spaces for dialogue have spread throughout the world and their main objective is to create opinion in civil society. The members of a think tank are generally experts in a subject who share their views with other experts and in this way a greater knowledge of a subject is generated. In this sense, it could be said that a think tank is a high-level forum.
The idea of forum arises historically from the spontaneous coexistence that occurs in urban space
This original sense has remained throughout the centuries, as we continue to discuss, debate and polemicize among ourselves.
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