Sunday, August 24, 2008

What is Community?

Even though we need to move on with the course outline, I am pretty sure that when the course ends it will all come back to this question of "What is community?"

Amy Lenzo says in Community and Technology

I mention beauty in the sense of an attractive aesthetic, yes - I'm a big believer in the power of line and space and color - but equally in the sense of kindness and care for the whole, creating a psychologically "safe" space in which people feel free to speak up and know they will be listened to. A space where they can easily find the tools they need to use and feel confident in using them. A space where all can feel equally valid and important to the whole. Having a buddy system can help with this, and that idea came out of this group quite organically, which is great.

I believe that a sense of belonging can be ensured in smaller groups where we don't have to compete to get a voice. You know that at a meeting of ten or fifeteen people, that you are going to be heard. I also hear what you are saying about the "whole". A community should have integrity of the whole. We should always be able to count the membership on our fingers and toes and say - There are 15 members, therefore a majority (relative number, relative to the whole number which is the membership) is 8! We should be able to count relative quantities at any time because we know the whole number of the membership. Without a whole number we can hardly calculate relative quantities.

Community is not about technology, it's about people, and when the focus of the conversation is too centered on the technology it draws attention and energy away from the whole and our ability to create or facilitate community together.

Yeah. Give me simple, common platforms like email, email groups and group chat and give me a handful of people who are committed to preserving and promoting traditional democratic forms and you can have all of your exotic technology. I know which group is going to produce the best ideas. It won't be the ones with the high falutin' technology. The Internet is a testimony to that fact. The technocrats have given us poor forms for human organization. But it's not their field. They are not trained in Ethics, History or any of the Liberal Arts. They are technicians, kind of like TV repair people.

Derek says:

I like the term free range learning. What will benefit us all a lot is if buddy groups actually sprout up.

I like the idea of a buddy system because it gives established members a role. If there are members of FOC07 hanging about in the FOC08 course, then I think they should have definite supportive roles. If they are not blogging through the course as full participants then they should have definite "Buddy" roles to help assist us in organizing our projects. FOC07 should be recognized but not allowed to interfere with the ideas and experiments brought in by the FOC08 group. Giving them secure roles is one way to reassure everyone.

Leigh says:

If we were to go back to a traditional understanding of community and ignore for a moment what Wenger has brought to the word (i.e. "Community of Practice"), how might we think of an online community differently? Would it be different if we had children and teenagers in the community for example? In this sense, how many of us have really been a part of an online community?

In a traditional community there is usually an age restriction of about 18 years for adult groups. And I've never heard of mature adults joing the Scouts. Those are childrens groups. Even within that one group, the members may be further subdivided. However, I can't imagine applying that because we are not building private clubs online. A private club does not broadcast it's business to the world. I go to a club and it's closed. People don't wander in and out and pop in to cast a vote and disappear like they do on the web. When you broadcast your proceedings to the world, I don't think you have any right or obligation to verify anyone's name, rank or serial number. People prefer anonymity and they have a right to it as a matter of privacy.

Anyway, I think Nancy mentioned in another blog about "How do you filter?" I'm interested in finding objective ways to evaluate all aspects of community. For one, I would like to address how we can filter people in without comprimising privacy.

Amy Lenzo says:

I'm not sure that having an age range makes sense to me as criteria for defining community, but I do agree the term is used far too loosely these days - sometimes in ways that feel strange, even false, to me.

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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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