Friday, September 22, 2006

What is a community?

I´m trying to compile a list with different definitions of the term community/communities. This is only a preliminary list and will be updated regularly. Please let me know if you find or have your own definition of the same. I would like here to focus more on the term "community" itself rather than community types such as "Community of Practice", "Community of Interest", "Learning community". In future posts, I´ll try to collect definitions of those and other community types.

  • In his new book "Beyond E-Learning", Marc Rosenberg used the following defintion "communities are trusting groups of professionals united by a common concern or purpose, dedicated to supporting each other in increasing their knowledge, creating new insights and enhancing performance in a particular domain. They are people who need to work, learn from, and help each other achieve business goals." (Hessan, Vogt, 1999), (Rosenberg, 2006)
  • "A community is the clustering of similar areas of interest that allows for interaction, sharing, dialoguing, and thinking together. Virtual and physical communities share many similar traits:

    • A gathering place for diverse people to meet
    • Nurturing place for learning and developing
    • A growing place - allowing members to try new ideas and concepts in a safe environment
    • Integrated. As an ecology, activities ripple across the domain. Knowledge in one area filters to another. Courses as a stand alone unit often do not have this transference.
    • Connected. People, resources, and ideas are connected and accessible across the community.
    • Symbiotic. A connection that is beneficial to all members of the community...needed in order for the community to survive." (Siemens, 2003)
  • Jacke McKee defined a community as "A group of people who form relationships over time by interacting regularly around shared experiences, which are of interest to all of them for varying individual reasons" and mentioned that "People often think that blogs, forums, wikis, and other tools are community. In actuality, those tools are just that - tools. They can help you to build community, but they aren't actually "community". When we talk community, we're simply talking about an interaction, a connection. Blogs or forums are a way to initiate and sustain that interaction." (McKee, 2005)
  • Jennifer Rice defined community as "a group of people who come together and interact based on a shared interest. But that community may not result in relationships, and it may dissolve in a day. Or an hour. The interesting thing about the web is that is facilitates dynamic engagements; there's an ebb and flow of connections that form, dissipate and reform into new configurations." (Rice, 2005)
  • "In the physical world, communities are typically groups of people (a town, for instance) held together by some common identity or interest. The same holds true for virtual or online communities in that they, too, are comprised of people with shared identity or interests coming together for a shared purpose. This shared interest or intent offers a strong forum for members of the community to build relationships and affiliations out of which they can learn from one another and make an impact on the society or culture around them. Coming from two Latin words meaning "with gifts," the term community suggests a general sense of altruism, reciprocity, and beneficence that comes from working together. Communities help generate a shared language, rituals and customers, and collective memory of those that join the group." (Learnativity, 2002)

  • The 1998 Encyclopedia Americana (Int'l Edition) defines a community as, "A relatively small, isolated center with a stable population, in which all economic and social services necessary to life can be maintained. The community is on the of the oldest forms on human social organizations... The ideal type of community emerges as an intellectual concept when social change threatens to destroy a locality's isolation, traditionalism, and solidarity.... [This] leads to a newer form -- including occupational and professional groups, neighborhood groups, and ethnic and political groups -- becomes the functional equivalents of the older, ecological, isolated community, and they make it possible for their members to avoid the problems of a multidimensional mass society. Their members can find a focus for their social relations, loyalties, and interests." (Learnativity, 2002)
  • M. Scott Peck, MD in The Different Drummer: Community-making and Peace says, "Community is something more than the sum of the parts, its individual members. What is this 'something more?' Even to begin to answer that, we enter a realm that is not so much abstract as almost mystical.... The analogy of a gem comes to mind. The seeds of community reside in humanity -- a social species -- just as a gem originally resides in the earth. But it is not yet a gem, only a potential one.... Geologists refer to a gem in the rough simply as a stone. A group becomes a community in somewhat the same way that a stone becomes a gem -- through a process of cutting and polishing. Once cut and polished, it is something beautiful. But to describe its beauty, the best we can do is to describe its facets. Community, like a gem, is multifaceted, each facet a mere aspect of a whole that defies description." (Learnativity, 2002)

  • Sociologist, Victor Azarya, of Hebrew University says, "a preliminary confusion arises between a community as a type of collectively or social unit, and community as a type of social relationship or sentiment.... Community, in the sense of type of collectivity, usually refers to (1) a group sharing a defined physical space or geographical area such as neighborhood, city, village or hamlet; (2) a group sharing common traits, a sense of belonging and/or maintaining social ties and interactions which shape it into a distinctive social entity, such as an ethnic, religious, academic or professional community." (Learnativity, 2002)
  • Margaret Wheatley, author of Leadership and the New Science said in The Community of the Future, "Human communities are no different from the rest of life. We form our communities from these same two needs -- the need for self-determination and the need for one another. But in modern society, we have difficulty embracing the inherent paradox of these needs. We reach to satisfy one at the expense of the other.... As we create communities from the cohering center of shared significance, from a mutual belief in why we belong together, we will discover what is already visible everywhere around us in living systems. People's great creativity and diversity, our desire for contribution and relationships, blossom when the heart of our community is clear and beckoning, and when we refrain from cluttering our paths with proscriptions and demands. The future of community is best taught to us by life." (Learnativity, 2002)

  • Howard Rheingold, the man who coined the term "virtual community" offered in his book, The Virtual Community, "Virtual communities are social aggregations that emerge from the Net when enough people carry on those public discussions long enough, with sufficient human feeling, to form webs of personal relationships in cyberspace." (Rheingold, 1993), (White, 2005)
  • Barry Wellman wrote "I define "community" as networks of interpersonal ties that provide sociability, support, information, a sense of belonging, and social identity. I do not limit my thinking about community to neighbourhoods and villages. This is good advice for any epoch and especially pertinent for the twenty-first century." (Wellman, 2001), (White, 2005)
  • Amy Jo Kim, author of "Community Building on the Web" wrote in 2001, "My own definition is a working, pragmatic definition, not the definition: A group of people who share a common interest or purpose; who have the ability to get to know each other better over time. There are two pieces to that definition. That second piece — getting to know each other better over time — means that there needs to be some mechanism of identity and communication. Something as simple as a mailing list has that. People have an identity, you know what their e-mail is, and you can communicate with them in the group setting." (Kim, 2001), (White, 2005)
  • "A community usually refers to a group of people who interact and share certain things as a group, but it can refer to various collections of living things sharing an environment, plant or animal...The word community comes from the Latin communis, meaning "common, public, shared by all or many." The Latin term "communitatus" from which the English word "community" comes, is comprised of three elements, "Com-" - a Latin prefix meaning with or togther, "-Munis-" - ultimately Proto-Indo-European in orgin, it has been suggested that it means "the changes or exchanges that link" (Both municipal and monetary take their meaning here), and "-tatus" a Latin suffix suggesting diminutive, small, intimate or local. German sociologist Ferdinand Tönnies presented a concise differentiation between the terms "community" (gemeinschaft) and "society" (gesellschaft). In his 1887 work, Gemeinschaft und Gesellschaft, Tönnies argued that "community" is perceived to be a tighter and more cohesive social entity within the context of the larger society, due to the presence of a "unity of will." He added that family and kinship were the perfect expressions of community but that other shared characteristics, such as place or belief, could also result in gemeinschaft." (Wikipedia, 2006)

  • "When the term community is used, the first notion that typically comes to mind is a place in which people know and care for one another...Communities speak to us in moral voices. They lay claims on their members. Indeed, they are the most important sustaining source of moral voices other than the inner self". (Etzioni, 1993)
  • "Community in general is a very broad concept, but all technical communities share three common characteristics: Community Members. Technical communities cannot exist without community members. People and the relationships they form create the social fabric that holds the community together. Without the discourse among community members, a community simply doesn’t exist. - A Domain. Technical communities focus on a particular domain, which is the common interest shared by all community members and represents the realm of possibilities. The domain also gives the community a common identity and sense of purpose. Because the scope of a domain can vary, communities can exist within communities as the level of specificity increases. - A Body of Knowledge. Technical communities enjoy an ever-expanding body of knowledge. The core purpose of a technical community is to develop knowledge about the domain and share it with community members. To me, content is simply the persistence of community knowledge." (Caron, 2005)

  • Jake McKee defines a community as "a group of people who form relationships over time by interacting regularly around shared experiences, which are of interest to all of them for varying individual reasons."

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