Sunday, August 17, 2008

The Meaning of Community

I am reading The Meaning of Community by Ann Boyles:

While pundits ponder whether or not Internet users form any kind of viable
community as they sit at their computers in farflung corners of the world, a
deeper and more serious issue is the manner in which the entire structure of
computer networks undermines more traditional kinds of community

The mainstream meaning of the word "community" has changed very much since the popularization of digital media. Language has been wildly stretched either because the meaning has changed or perhaps it has been this stretching that has distorted the meaning? I lean toward the latter description of how things have changed. Words have been used ignorantly by promoters of so-called "communities" just for the purpose of promoting a certain digital platform into popularity. A good example is all of the PHP forums out there. The vocabulary of the PHP forum is fixed.

It is possible to have Guest posting in relationship to the membership of members, but administrators, seeking to attract more traffic, allowed "members" to join who were in no way qualified for eachother. The person simply needed to fill out a short form that a 12 year old could do in less than 2 minutes, and "Presto - you're a member!" So the meaning of the word "member" has been enervated.

Traditionally, a membership of individuals must be qualified. I have been involved in many communities where the very minimum requirements were that I attend at least two or more consecutive meetings, and it was expected that I regularly participate in the programs that the community offered because these programs advanced the purpose of the community.

Words like "Group" too have no meaning because a group traditionally would be organized according to temporal and/or ordinal limits, and not only exist as a random and unlimited collection of individuals.

The very words "Discussion" and "Forum" mean little much like what we are accustomed to.

A discussion is a group speaking in an organized, ordinal form, the circle formation (ABC ABC...) being one of the most well known, popular and versatile.

A debate is an argument presented before a third party for evaluation or judgement. It has a beginning and an end, it does not just go on and on.

A forum is an organization of varied discussion forms, not just an organization of topics, but an organization of process.

I advocate a return to the traditional meanings of community. I feel that community should be an empowering experience. Most so-called communities culminate their communications in an offline action. I am interested in the power to organize an online action through democratic deliberative forms.

People use e-terms. It's eThis and eThat. I was searching the web for "eDemocracy" and found groups who were using the web as a messageboard to promote offline democratic organizations. That is not a true eDemocracy. The organizing efforts of an eDemocracy culminate in online action. The election of it's membership would be one of the basic online actions.

"Information is another word that has been stretched. People say that "information has increased". When I have a verbal conversation with someone, it is not catagorized by the public as "relevant information". So while a chat is information, it's not relevant. Does it require preservation?

I think the correct meaning is that there is a "people overload". There are too many people to deal with. Seems like everyone wants to have the biggest group instead of the better group.

As much as knowledge has increased with the recording of information, knowledge becomes obsolete as the technology changes and formats are replaced.

A "meeting" of posters along the line of a latitude can not be easily facilitated in real time, therefore a new form must arise deserving of it's own name.

Terms like "discussion" "meeting" and others have a meaning that includes "broadcasting the communication". Why should a chat or meeting be broadcast? People think that community will grow if it is accessible. How did traditional communities like Rotary International manage to grow their memberships to where there are more than 32,000 clubs and over 1.2 million members world-wide?

See the Glossary of Terms

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The ordinal discussion arts lead us into coherent group building and groups become the building blocks of communities.

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