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community

What is a community?
How can you tell if you belong to a community?
Are there different ways of belonging to a community?
What communities do you belong to?
Why?

Comments

( 32 comments — Leave a comment )
jodawi
May. 19th, 2002 12:21 pm (UTC)
do you mean LJ communities in the technical sense, or abstraction of community in general?

also, hello.
firecat
May. 19th, 2002 02:09 pm (UTC)
hi back
abstraction.
jodawi
May. 19th, 2002 02:14 pm (UTC)
Re: hi back
I was afraid of that.

m.

brain.

m.

um.

a community is semi-sticky rice, but the rice nodules are aetherial entities inhabiting meat.

you don't belong to them, they belong to you.

ribbit.

i belong to second rice twice removed community.

am.
Re: hi back - firecat - May. 19th, 2002 02:20 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: hi back - jodawi - May. 19th, 2002 02:34 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: hi back - firecat - May. 19th, 2002 10:37 pm (UTC) - Expand
elynne
May. 19th, 2002 12:21 pm (UTC)
All IMO, of course
What is a community?

Any (yes, any) congregation of people who have a common denominator. A half-dozen people stuck in an elevator for an hour is a community, for the duration in which they're stuck in the elevator. A bunch of angry people posting to Slashdot that there is no such thing as an online community are, ironically, a community.

How can you tell if you belong to a community?

1. Satisfying the basic requirements for that particular community (i.e. being in the stuck elevator with other people, being logged into an online forum, living in a particular neighborhood)

2. Maintaining some degree of communication with that community. If you don't talk to your neighbors, you're still living in a community, but you don't belong to it in any useful/realistic sense.

Are there different ways of belonging to a community?

I think that in certain situations, it's possible to belong to a community without the communication thing. Like the person who always comes to parties and just sits in a corner and reads. Hm... though I see that there's some interchange between "communication" and "participation" there that I hadn't thought of before. Perhaps I should change #2 above to "participation" instead of "communication."

What communities do you belong to?

Ummm... currently: my household, my work, my school, the professional organization I've joined, some LJ stuff, some Usenet stuff, some other online stuff, several far-flung groups, several friend-clusters.

Why?

Various different reasons; each community fills a certain need in my life, some more than one.

By the way... hello again. :) I'm sorry I haven't been to AP to see you (and the AP community) in a long while.
firecat
May. 19th, 2002 02:13 pm (UTC)
Re: All IMO, of course
Hello again! Toldja I'd be back here, just didn't say when, I don't think...

What I find interesting about your definition is that whether you belong to a community is entirely dependent on your participation. If for whatever reason -- you get bored, you get hit by a bus and go into a coma -- you stop participating, then you are no longer part of the community. Therefore, there is no way a community can hold your membership while you're not participating, or seek you out to help you if you aren't participating.

Doesn't seem, therefore, like a community is something you should count on to care about ya.
elynne
May. 19th, 2002 07:04 pm (UTC)
Re: All IMO, of course
Well... it may be harsh, but it's true: when a person stops participating in a community, they're no longer a member of that community. That doesn't mean that that community won't feel any sympathy, empathy, obligation, care, or whatever for that person.

Say Debbie is in a sewing club, and Debbie gets hit by a car and goes into a coma. It's perfectly understandable for the community of the sewing club to get together and sew Debbie a get-well present, even though Debbie, by virtue of the fact that she can no longer attend the club, isn't technically a member for the duration. As time goes on, though, unless Debbie was one of the founding members or is otherwise somehow pivotal to the sewing club community, they'll get along without her. How long a community (neighborhood, club, social clique, family, etc.) will stick with you through your inability or unwillingness to communicate/participate in that community is a large measure of how important you are to that community.

I think it's much more interesting to look at how a community helps somebody who has been outside of the community for whatever reason come back. In the case of a person who has left the community voluntarily, I'd say that the burden of reintegration is mostly on that individual's side. In a case like Debbie, though, the worth of the community would show in how smoothly/awkwardly/kindly they welcome her back.

During the time that I haven't been posting to alt.poly, I haven't really been a member of the alt.poly newsgroup community, though I've been in touch with a few in email, a few personally, and many on LJ. But then, I'd say that those things are different communities, which I happen to share with some of the same people that I know through alt.poly.

I suppose I view a community as an extremely flexible, nebulous thing - which goes right along with the idea that any gathering of people who communicate or participate in anything together is a community - whether they like it or not. ;)

The odd thing is, by that definition the people who were rioting in Seattle a couple years back were a de facto community. What a strange idea. I want to chew on that a bit more.
Re: All IMO, of course - firecat - May. 19th, 2002 10:42 pm (UTC) - Expand
Adorable kitty, BTW :) - elynne - May. 19th, 2002 11:27 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Adorable kitty, BTW :) - firecat - May. 20th, 2002 03:35 pm (UTC) - Expand
wcg
May. 19th, 2002 12:38 pm (UTC)
What is a community?

A group of people who share some common interest(s) and who interact with one another.

How can you tell if you belong to a community?

Sometimes they give you a secret decoder ring, or a t-shirt, or a coffee cup. The rest of the time I'd imagine you notice because you find yourself interacting with certain people over and over as you deal with whatever it is that you share as common interests.

Are there different ways of belonging to a community?

Oh yeah, certainly in my experience. Some people go from one role to another and maybe even cycle through several roles over and over within a community. It's kind of like being in a family, but without the inheritance tax.

What communities do you belong to?

The Callahan's Place community, where these days I hold the roles of Part Time Lurker and Respected Old Coot. I also put in an occassional appearance in the role of Patron Saint of Desirable Machismo. (Really, I can show you the post where Big Al gave me the halo.)

The Alt.Poly community, where I hold the role of poster emeritus, mostly lurking now and occassionally sending an e-mail to someone if I think I might have something to offer.

The Astronomy community, with special membership in the Space Based faction, and in the "take your teaching seriously, damnit!" faction.

The aerospace engineering community, science satellite group.

The community of retired Marines.

The community of Military Operations Analysts.

The State Guard community. (Ask if you're interested, otherwise I won't go into detail.)

The community of SF fandom, where I hold the role of "SF character come to life" for a lot of people. I'm not a TrueFan(tm), and really have no wish to be, but enough people in fandom know me that I'd be silly to ignore my membership in this community.

The Baltimore-Washington English Country Dance community, by virtue of dancing with them regularly. (I'm a card carrying member of the Baltimore Folk Music Society.)

There may be others, but that's what comes to mind right now.
firecat
May. 19th, 2002 02:17 pm (UTC)
expressing my inner two year old
(in other words, asking more and more questions :)

what are different ways to belong to a community?
why does it seem to you that a person stays part of a community even if s/he doesn't interact within the community itself but only with other people who do? (referencing your "lurking and occasionally sending an email" role).
wcg
May. 19th, 2002 02:53 pm (UTC)
Re: expressing my inner two year old
Ask your mother. (He said, with a grin.)

why does it seem to you that a person stays part of a community even if s/he doesn't interact within the community itself but only with other people who do? (referencing your "lurking and occasionally sending an email" role)

I don't think you have to be a politician to be politically active. Likewise, I don't see a need to post in a newsgroup to interact with people who you met there and share common interests with.

The reason *I* consider myself part of that community comes down to the fact I care about some of those folks (present company included), and I would make some effort to visit with them if I happened to be in the same location. We have a common interest which provides a basis for friendship. (OTOH, there are some regular posters I wouldn't drive across town to visit, and in fact I don't.)

In a more general sense, I think that a lot of people who are members of various communities only interact with portions of the community at a time. I'm willing to bet that Al Gore has only met 1% of all registered Democrats in the US, but nobody questions his membership in the Democratic party. People who are not "public persons" might reasonably interact with a smaller percentage of a large community, and still consider themselves members.

I'd like to add to my original statement above, and point out that in fact I'm a member of the community of all US Marines, not just the retired ones, and that gives me a strong connection to all others who claim the title.
Re: expressing my inner two year old - firecat - May. 19th, 2002 10:47 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: expressing my inner two year old - wcg - May. 20th, 2002 07:49 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: expressing my inner two year old - firecat - May. 20th, 2002 03:45 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: expressing my inner two year old - wcg - May. 20th, 2002 04:32 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: expressing my inner two year old - firecat - May. 20th, 2002 11:47 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: expressing my inner two year old - wcg - May. 21st, 2002 01:00 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: expressing my inner two year old - firecat - May. 21st, 2002 01:19 pm (UTC) - Expand
ailbhe
May. 21st, 2002 08:45 am (UTC)
1) A group of people who think they are a community.
2) I have no idea. Like falling in love, you Just Know.
3) Yes. As many as there are people, and then some.
4) Lots, and they overlap and have subsets.
5) As many reasons as communities I belong to. Usually because I want to.
firecat
May. 21st, 2002 08:59 am (UTC)
Ooh yeah
like falling in love

Are other aspects of community-belonging/relating like being in love perhaps? Can you ("one") lose trust in your community, have difficulty communicating with it? Fall out of love? Feel betrayed? I know I can feel "new relationship energy" for a community...
ailbhe
May. 21st, 2002 11:15 am (UTC)
1) Depends on the community. ap/afp/LJ? yeah. My little "African village" domestic setup? Yeah. debian-user, debian-curiosa, bofhnet? Nope.

2) a) Yes
b) Yes

3) Yes

4) _Hell_ yes, and how. Owie.

5) NRE - yerrrsssss. But, like with a new relationship, it's after I've got to know it and started to fell "Oh, goodness me, what a good idea" about it. I don't love at first sight much.
(no subject) - firecat - May. 21st, 2002 11:30 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - ailbhe - May. 22nd, 2002 09:25 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - firecat - May. 22nd, 2002 07:04 pm (UTC) - Expand
elisem
May. 22nd, 2002 04:11 pm (UTC)
[note: I'm going to answer these before I read the other comments, just to see what I think before being cultivated by the thought-plows of others....]


What is a community?

I think there are probably bunches of different flavors with not-entirely-overlapping descriptions, so your communities may vary. Mine probably will too, even from each other. But plunging boldly in, I think community is more in the doing than in the being... no, wait, actually I think that the doing makes the being. Community is something that we make by doing, and the doing is some form of interaction. (I can think of some communities with some members where the arrows only go one direction -- i.e. they get something, but don't give something back -- and I can think of circumstances where that's just fine, but I can't think of any example where those people would be the sustaining members of that community, so I think that communities must have a certain number of members for whom the arrows go back and forth. Hence, interaction.)

How can you tell if you belong to a community?

I notice that some bunch or clump of folks shares news and has some common foci of attention and common media of exchange/interaction; usually I notice this because they start taking up a particular shape of space in my thoughts, I guess.

As for ecological community, I can tell I belong to one when the other members affect my biological processes, and I theirs. But I belong to lots of them probably without noticing. (I find that unfortunate, actually. Hmm.)

Sometimes communities are defined by the namer/line-drawer. There's lots of overlap that way, and some definitions are more understandable/useful to me than others.

Are there different ways of belonging to a community?

Almost certainly.

What communities do you belong to?

Um. The ones I can think of off-hand are: fandom; sorta-kinda-on-the-outskirts of con-running fans & SMOFs (there are no SMOFs! Fnord!); women-type people around my region who are interested in spirituality and creativity and right living, especially the ones that go to a retreat I go to each year; (some of) the fantasy writing community/ies; the Village, which is a part of Baggiecon, which is a large clump of folks who camp near one another at the Winnipeg Folk Festival each year in Manitoba; an amorphous large time-transcending community of artists; the Midwest bi communities; and so forth. Oh, and my home town: although I am far from it now, there's still a way in which I will always belong to that community.

Why?

Dunno. I followed what I cared about, and that's where I ended up. Or else I got born there, and they shaped me (and possibly a little bit vice-versa too).

Why one stays in 'em is an interesting question too, I think....‡
firecat
May. 22nd, 2002 07:10 pm (UTC)
usually I notice this because they start taking up a particular shape of space in my thoughts

I recognize that, yes. Thanks for that description.

I notice you don't mention any online groups (alt.poly, LJ) in your list of communities. Do you think online groups aren't or can't be communities? Or is it something about you, that you don't feel community-ish about online groups?

Why one stays in 'em, yeah. Kind of like why one stays in some relationships when they have difficulties. Why one might feel fascinated by communities that might not be the greatest thing for one. blah blah blah...
elisem
May. 22nd, 2002 07:37 pm (UTC)
I notice you don't mention any online groups (alt.poly, LJ) in your list of communities. Do you think online groups aren't or can't be communities? Or is it something about you, that you don't feel community-ish about online groups?

Neither, actually. There are a lot of communities I could list but didn't; that list was in no way intended to be exhaustive, or even be anything other than a few examples of various sorts just off the top of my head at that moment.

If someone asked about on-line communities I was part of, I'd probably start by listing (semi-chronologically):

MUGgers and MERITSS people, particularly those who played Karnath (a game by Tom Arachtingi and Bill Seurer, lo these many years ago; I was Snark, and a few other characters, if anybody from that long ago ever happens to read this. While the interactive opportunities were minimal, they were not entirely lacking, so it counts, in my mind....)

I never really got to hang around the Mines of Moria bunch on Plato much, so that was a bunch I only caught the smallest glimpse of, but it was pretty tantalizing at the time....

FidoNet and the echoes thereof, also lo (almost) these many years ago; particularly the Feminism echo....

alt.polyamory

I recognize alt.callahans as a community, although I am just a lurker-in-the-rafters and an infrequent one at that; I went to alt.callahans before alt.poly existed, though, so these two should probably be swapped around

the WELL (I forget when I started on the WELL; I should go look it up. It was either late 80's or early 90's, and probably the latter....)

... and a few other places -- including the few, the proud, the absolutely barking mad Mob from 104, alt.well.fans.neil-gaiman *snrch*

Oh, and I used to be a very small-time member of alt.shoe.lesbians, back when....

And some more.'
(no subject) - firecat - May. 25th, 2002 11:25 am (UTC) - Expand
( 32 comments — Leave a comment )

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