Of course words are a limiting form of expression

1. when you lose them you must use more to find them or express the concept sought
2. they are a flat mode of delivery
3. a vocabulary is finite to aid communication with others not able to think what you are thinking, with parameters set by language
4. they are associated with known concepts and ideas

I have been stumped for the last few days, trying to think how best to articulate ‘community’ given the new online sphere and the traditional view of community brought into question – when it hit me – words are great for expressing the known and problematic for the new. New thoughts require new words or new takes on the existing.

(ironically, with this tool in hand, suddenly words became more useful!)

Our notion of community is based on the tangible – physical co-location or even virtual spaces – although what the internet highlights all too readily is the manifestation of one ‘community’ in multiple space – e.g. Justin Bieber Twitter, Facebook, Blogs, society meet-ups – despite the obvious connection.

Yet it is possible to still feel part of a community even if no longer active within in, or never having been directly involved – perception of association.

Take for example a housewife involved in a single 4chan campaign but unable to spend any time online these days because her children’s needs have changed – she may still feel connected to that group as its values still appeal to her, yet should her lack of physical activity on the site perturb her from feeling part of the community?

It’s one of the biggest reasons for alumni faculties for organisations or groups – retaining that connection and thus sense of community, even if never participating in ‘alumni’ activities.

Association becomes even more important (and interesting) when you think about those who feel part of a given community, e.g. parents at the school gates, only by association to someone assigned to that community, e.g. the friend who always walks her dog at 4pm and bumps into others at the gates even though she herself does not have a child at the school to pick up but is so frequently there others feel she is part of that ‘community’.

Community will mean different things to different people – to those within and those looking from outside – and there is no way of imposing meaningful in-group/out-group divides. It is down to perception of belonging.

Association to the theme is also incredibly important.

Mums at the school gates may meet for coffee – same people, different environment, same community.
Fans of Justin Bieber may express themselves on different social platforms but it is their connection to theme JB which is the glue that brings them together.

So a community is an intangible association with others that can manifest in tangible ways, but is also fluid enough to allow community to continue even if the association itself is altered.

I would quite like one word for this… come to think about it, is it unity? hummm….


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