week 6 summary

For my ethnography, I’ve decided to use a community of which I was already a member and which is rather ambiguous in its status as a community (being the online components of a two-day RL conference). This got me thinking not only about what defines a community generally but what I experience personally as community.

Succinctly, not much. I’ve been part of random groupings of people that I’m sure other members thought of as community (e.g. neighbourhoods, schools, girls’ clubs, retail jobs), but that weren’t communities to me. Personally, it’s been the common interest factor that has made a [collection of people] eligible to become a community. And even then this isn’t a guarantee that ‘affective and emotional solidarity’ or a ‘strong sense of belonging’ (Bell, 2001, p. 107) will emerge. But how do I know that other people haven’t perceived these same groups in a different way? Was the IRC Beatles room that I stopped by intermittently circa 1995 a tight-knit community, unbeknownst to me? Did others of the 500 1998 Berkeley English graduates see the cohort as an interest-sharing community? And what about the groups that I do think of as communities? Perhaps other members wouldn’t agree…

My examples here rather beg the question–I didn’t participate in the IRC room consistently, and I commuted to university rather than living near campus, so there are reasons I wasn’t as involved as I could have been. But this brings up the question (that others have asked over the past week) of status within a community; while my low involvement or geographical separation put me de facto on the periphery of these communities, many online communities create de jure inner circles. These are often labelled light-heartedly, and based on number of [helpful/liked] posts, but can carry significant weight as gatekeeping mechanisms. In The Digital Scholar‘s chapter on A Pedagogy of Abundance (Weller, 2011) a hierarchy of communities of practice is explicitly broken down with the assumption that members move from the outer circles to the inner. However, it seems to me that the democratising potential of the internet should be used to allow ‘peripheral’ individuals to nonetheless feel part of a community–that their membership should be based on their interest in the topic (their ‘election’ to be there in the first place) rather than the time or knowledge that they can offer to the community.

This will be interesting to look at in terms of my ethnography, in that there wasn’t time to form a hierarchy online–but were offline status relationships leveraged in cyberspace?



I was just reminded of this as an interesting test case for ‘is this a community?’ Even though completely random, it’s still self-selecting (‘people who like to meet random people on the internet’?).

It does smack a bit of a film I don’t think we mentioned in the first block. Here’s the scene in question:

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Shutterstock ‘social’

Searching for ‘social’ on Shutterstock yields almost exclusively social media images…

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‘Get your exams done’

Here’s an interesting email I received at my work account. I like how they’re trying to legitimate a perceived student sub-culture based on education being hoop-jumping in order to get the real commodity–a degree. The taunting of academics who have protested to their service seems to be an attempt to back up their position of rebel honesty and of being on the side of the student. Given the frenetic structure of the email, however, and a lot of pretty odd phrasing, I don’t think I’d want any of them writing my essays…

Here it is. Many profs have been emailing us saying “You will get their assignments done, but what about their tests and exams? How will they accomplish those?” Our response? No Worries!

We would like to thank our union members for supporting us all across the three continents. This wouldn’t be where it is without your help.

So from now on you don’t have to look at your exam questions as if you have encountered species from another planet. No more memorizing nonsense and forgetting the whole thing 2 days after the exam. Say bye to “group studies” where everyone is known to be either on Facebook or YouTube. Stop pretending.
Now you can get together and check out LashXone. Your degree awaits you.

Dear profs, where are your sines and cosines to help you now?

We enjoy and admire your emails where your anger shows to be nothing but a bunch of words that you painfully smother yourselves with.

We enjoy reading every word of it. You know what’s unethical? Unethical is forcing students to pay for textbooks with elementary and useless writing just because you (“Professor”) are the author, it’s kicking students out of your “office” after they ask you for 1% even though you are at fault, and it’s all the wasted years where none of the stuff you “taught” us was ever used in real world jobs.

If we learned one thing in our time being TA’s. It’s to be ruthless with the pen!

Don’t ever stop emailing us, we love them, that’s why LashXone exists, it’s payback time.

P.S Don’t email us using your university email address, use some other provider.


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I thought that an interesting (if not terribly novel) way into online communities would be to look at the top ten Google results for ‘community’. The first nine in my search were pretty unremarkable, but this was number ten. What interested me was that it was the least communal website I could imagine without the link actually being dead. There is only one hyperlink on the site, which is highly tangental, and ‘Contact Us’ is simply an email address. The rest is cursory information about ‘community’ in general, the point of which seems to have been lost in the sands of time.

So I decided to sift the sands of time with the wayback machine.

It looks like this site started out as ‘CommUnity: the computer communicators’ association‘, which we can see from the 1996 home page. It was last updated in 1999, and in 2005 the domain was put up for sale. It appears to have been acquired in 2010, and has remained the same–except for the addition of the aforementioned hyperlink–since then.

What I’d like to know is:

  1. Why did someone buy the domain name just to put some wikipedia-style info about community on it?
  2. Whatever happened to the computer communicator’s association?
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Glass community?

Glass tech plus another mention of the iWatch plus perhaps an emergent community (of Americans with a spare $1500 anyway…)

Not to mention Corningpocalypse Now!

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