Social psychologists, sociologists, and historians have developed useful tools for asking questions about human group interaction. Different communities of interpretation, from anthropology to economics, have different criteria for studying whether a group of people is a community. In trying to apply traditional analysis of community behavior to the kinds of interactions emerging from the Net, I have adopted a schema proposed by Marc Smith, a graduate student in sociology at the University of California at Los Angeles, who has been doing his fieldwork in the WELL and the Net. Smith focuses on the concept of “collective goods.” Every cooperative group of people exists in the face of a competitive world because that group of people recognizes there is something valuable that they can gain only by banding together. Looking for a group’s collective goods is a way of looking for the elements that bind isolated individuals into a community.
The three kinds of collective goods that Smith proposes as the social glue that binds the WELL into something resembling a community are social network capital, knowledge capital, and communion. Social network capital is what happened when I found a ready-made community in Tokyo, even though I had never been there in the flesh. Knowledge capital is what I found in the WELL when I asked questions of the community as an online brain trust representing a highly varied accumulation of expertise. And communion is what we found in the Parenting conference, when Phil’s and Jay’s children were sick, and the rest of us used our words to support them.
That was written over twenty years ago. For me two sentences stood out, and stood out enough for me to want to repeat them here:
Every cooperative group of people exists in the face of a competitive world because that group of people recognizes there is something valuable that they can gain only by banding together. Looking for a group’s collective goods is a way of looking for the elements that bind isolated individuals into a community.
Nearly a decade later, Amy-Jo Kim, another regular WELLBeing, wrote Community Building On The Web. And smitten as I was in Howard’s work and in the workings of the WELL, I found Amy-Jo’s book fascinating. Another must-read. [Over the years I have lost count of the number of copies I've given away of these two books, The Virtual Community and Community Building On The Web. Buy them, read them, you won't regret it.] [Disclosure: I know Howard well, I've met Amy-Jo a few times; I am not a shareholder in anything they do and have no financial interest in your purchasing the books].
Early on in the book, Amy-Jo says:
Communities come to life when they fulfil an ongoing need in people’s lives. To create a successful community, you’ll need to first understand why you’re building it and who you’re building it for; and then express your vision in the design, technology and policies of your community.
She then goes on to say:
A community can begin to take root wherever people gather for a shared purpose and start talking amongst themselves.
Incidentally, a dozen years ago, Amy-Jo described her nine design strategies as “timeless”. Time has proved her right.
Read the full article at www.confusedofcalcutta.com