1.Community – what's that?

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The concept

In the most generic sense, community is a collection of living things sharing a common environment. The 'living things' may refer to humans, but not necessarily - we can also view the fauna of a lake as a community. On the other hand, the environment may be physical (e.g. same location, like a village) but increasingly also virtual (as seen at a large number of online communities where participants may never meet face to face).

Examples of (human) communities:

  • a number of people living at the same place (sharing the physical environment)
  • a number of people doing the same thing (may be physical or virtual)
  • a number of people having a common feature (may be physical or virtual)

One explanation: coming from Latin cum (with, together) + munus (gift) => a company giving gifts to each other

Main keywords: common activity, also equality

Communities throughout the ages

  • the Flintstones pursuing a dinosaur
  • the Roman Forum
  • Middle Ages: a village, a guild
  • Modern Age: a firm, a trade union
  • the postmodernism: the cult of the Individual
  • the information age: return of the communities (best seen in but not limited to IT sector)

Charles Handy: return of the guilds

Robert Theobald: the mindquake

Weakening of the traditional community

  • losing the roots
  • the mishmash of worldviews
  • a man is the ... of the fellow man
  • the triumph of individualism
  • consumer mentality

... and the birth of new communities

  • new technologies
  • lots of choice
  • timeless time
  • increasingly unmet need for communication
  • educational aspirations, lifelong learning
  • lots of free time
  • needs for 'something real'
  • sometimes also direct altruism

Various factors

  • size
  • lifespan
  • coverage (local, international, global)
  • mono- or multicultural
  • official or unofficial
  • cooperation vs competition
  • physical, virtual or both

Yet common ground

  • belonging
  • certain models of communication
  • network of relation (not hierarchy)
  • support mechanisms

Charles Handy in his Future of Work (1984): the time of mass production (both in industry and offices) is up. Production is done by gangs equipped with modern technology.

Handy's gang is also a community - see also the hacker model of software development.