I touched on this during the elluminate session, for me a community can be categorised as:
Location, people come together who have a common interest due to their location. This is used in marketing for housing estates, residential villages etc. Ever heard the term it has a real community feel?
A common purpose, people develop a community for a cause such as a campaigning group. We have one at the moment in Auckland lobbying against phone masts being located near schools.
Allegiance for a common cause, sports supporters gather together in a location to collectively support their team. After the event community members disperse back into society. However, if you meet someone wearing the shirt of ‘your’ team you immediately have a connection.
To benefit from the allegiance, people may join a community of like minded people with the purpose of gaining something. I believe that I will take from our online community more than I contribute.
Etienne Wenger spoke at the HERDSA conference in Rotorua last year and he was saying that some people feel (I think he was actually referring to his peers who were involved in original research) as though the original term of a Community of Practice had been bastardised. His point was that people used the term to explain different groups of people working together for a common purpose. So are we to adopt a purist approach of a community ticking certain boxes with no lee way? This would suggest that a community is not owned by it’s participants but an elite club to which you or I need membership.
I belong to many communities; I am a Burnley fan this has noting to do with location, though it did when I became a member. Not to be confused with Dunbar’s crowds or Downes’ networks. People from all social classes and professional backgrounds intentionally come together for a purpose. Even though I’m on the other side of the world I still feel part of that community. However, I have been to enough football matches to see sections of that community behave like a crowd.
I am a member of three different online forums. I joined these purely for selfish reasons, I wanted to immigrate to New Zealand and could have easy access to people who were going through the same process or had recently been through the process. I only stood to gain from their experience. As time has passed I have gained confidence and contributed far more. I am now on the other side of the fence so can contribute as a member who has been through the experience.
Gesellschaft versus Gemeinshcaft, I did intend to categorise the above but they didn’t neatly divide up into Association or community, I am subjective so don’t feel that I can. Tonnes, who coined the terms agrees that in the real world they are often a mixture of the two. All have social capital (Putnam) and I believe that they contain the four elements of a sense of community. Namely membership; influence; integration and fulfillment of needs; and a shared emotional connection as identified by McMillan and Chavis.