14 responses to “Community and the Politics of Place

  1. Chuck – congrats on joining the (personal) blogosphere.

    The creation of community, or of civilization, for that matter, may be enhanced by social media. I don’t think it can be solely responsible for creating community.

    Social media still depends on like-minded people, interacting. Some of them might already be part of a community (such as PR people), and the functioning of that community can be helped or hurt by social media.

    Just as in face to face interactions, thoughtless, incomplete or anti-contextual comments can injure relationships in the social media realm.

    I see social media as more of a means rather than an end — a tool set that leads to relationships. I have used social media as a means of introducing myself, but the quality of the relationship after that introduction depends on other factors.

  2. Hey Sean – Thanks for stopping by! I definitely agree with you…face-to-face interaction is definitely required for true community to exist. That being said, I think social media can help lead us there.

  3. Hi Chuck–Nice little blog you have going here.

    A few years ago, I asked Robert Putnam, of “Bowling Alone” fame, the same question. He felt (in 2004) that the verdict was still out on the social “web 2.0” community actually becoming a community.

    I fear that I am a bit down on the ability of the social networks to recharge community engagement overall. Studies have found (I’ll go find them) that facebook “friends” are merely a collection of people and that we still tend to only really talk to 5-10 people anyway, leaving your other 200 friends in the dust.

    However, I’d say the “flash mob” is a prime example of community–at least a community of people responding to an event request immediately and just as quickly dispersing.

    The problem with the flash mob, as with other communities like say, ning.com, is that the user seeks out similar views rather than diverse views. In a living community, our neighbors will differ from us, probably. What seems to be happening virtually (ning.com) and in reality (“The Big Sort”) is that we are seeking homogenious places. This explains the proliferation of “Christian” themed everything (wrestling, amusement parks, rock music) for the fundamentalists, for example.

    I recommend the use of social media to the government agencies I work with due to the fact that a whole generation is missing key information from the government. However, there is a recent trend of parents and old people (believe it or not, us Chuck!) who are joining these sites, driving off communities of 18-25 year-olds to even more new media.

    Consider this final point–Twitter, and texting has replaced the phone call, which replaced letter-writing, and face-to-face communication. I no longer have to even talk to someone in voice, let alone in person. I can just text, coldly, impersonally.

    I have avoided Twitter. However, I will credit facebook for leading me to this blog, and to coordinating visits of my college peers when they come to DC (such as yourself).



  4. David – thank you for raising the intellectual quotient of this blog by about 10x. I figured I might get a reaction out of you because I know how much you loved that class 🙂

    And I refuse to believe that I’m old. Just not going to do it.

    • No problem. I spend entirely too much time on this particular topic. Mostly because homeland is looking to reap the raw data from social networking for emergency management. I still fence-ride on this topic, is web 2.0 an ersatz community or a real one?

      Oh, and I still think back to Mattern though he didn’t like my politics. The example of the porchless homes comes up in my conversations quite a bit–especially since McMansions now have monumental porticos that scare away people coming to the front door–something the author didn’t forsee in the 90’s. I wonder what a big front door but little porch actually means–usually, overcompensation.

  5. Fantastic question, Chuck (and nice blog you’ve got going here!). I was actually passed this (http://www.newsweek.com/id/213088) article on increasing isolation in the US the other day (h/t @jeremymeyers) and my mind went straight to it after reading your post.

    I’d say although I do believe the social Web is rebuilding our community, I don’t believe it’s doing it as quickly or on as a massive a scale as we’re led to believe. And, I think that’s because there are still a significant number of people who view social networks as something strictly left to the online world. I’m not sure that many of us choose to say, hey, this is a fantastic community, I’d love to meet up with these people.

    I know that sounds kind of anti-me, since I’m such a proponent of online community. But, I feel people just haven’t grasped the potential of leveraging online connections to create fantastic offline encounters. And until they realize that potential and do something about it, they’ll never see what they’re participating in as a great Community, in all senses of the word.

    I hope that changes. I hope greater numbers of us do see and put into action that potential. When that happens I’ll come back and leave you a new comment. 🙂

    Great post!

  6. Teresa – you rock! I totally agree with you. Using social networks to create offline encounters is really where it is at…and probably the only way that we truly achieve the sense of community that Kemmis was talking about in his book.

    And thanks for the blog kudos! Had to throw my hat in the ring at some point, right?

  7. Chuck, great to see your new personal blog. Looking forward to your insights.

  8. Hi Chuck! Interesting post, and a topic debated numerous times in my circles.

    I think geography is still a “make-or-break” condition to community. At least in the conventional sense of the word. I’ve met a few people on Twitter who have evolved into face-to-face relationships. Interestingly, this seems to only be the case with those who are in geographic proximity of some sort.

    I think social media has the capability to initiate relationships and community, but I’m not confident (yet) that it can sustain them without a significant investment in face-to-face time. What worries me about the effects of social media on community is that we may be more likely to crowd-source the solutions to our problems than to ask those who actually live next door. If, in the past, community was necessary for support, a societal tool to maintain a level of security and convenience, then what becomes of the conventional sense of community? Is it still necessary? Neighbours on my street created an online forum where we can talk about neighbourly issues, help each out, etc. In that sense, the internet does support community. Conversely, while I used the online forum to borrow a neighbours’ ladder, it didn’t really support community. They sent me an email saying that it would be sitting on their front porch and to just return it when I was done. Which I did promptly, having never actually met them. Which leaves me to wonder: is the internet supporting communities, or transforming communities? It provides the answers, but without having actually developed a meaningful relationship. And I’m not sure what to do with that…

  9. Tariq – you raise some interesting points here. Perhaps the community, as Kemmis outlined, is dead? I hope not, but it’s another question worth pondering.

  10. Great start into the ‘personal’ blog relam, Chuck – especially since it touches on the idea of community. The more I ponder on the animal that is ‘social media,’ the more I belive that it is founded on paying it forward. The more you give equals the more you get…one hand washes the other…etc.

    But it is inherently true – how else can you determine that schlocky salespeople get low numbers and poor results in social media? It just doesn’t work. The ‘marathon’ analogy works because it takes time. The ‘community’ analogy works because social media is…well…social…you don’t live on an island here.


  11. Narciso – thanks so much for commenting and lending your perspective. Always a valued member of my community 🙂

  12. Pingback: DR. WHAW? – August 24, 2009 « One true sentence.

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