Achieving true community May 27, 2012Posted by Wanetta Ayers in Uncategorized.
Tags: social media, virtual communities
Community exists whenever people connect and interact. The concept of virtual communities arose as people began to gravitate to online mediums nearly forty years ago. Social media is the latest in a long line of evolving technologies that enable people to form community regardless of time, distance, or other barriers. The pace and proliferation of social media is the realization of what McLuhan described as the global village and Telsa envisioned as the globally networked brain or nervous system (Federman 2004).
Social media and virtual communities
Virtual communities have the same challenges as analog communities. Community members play roles and assume tasks in order to sustain the community. In his book The Different Drum, M. Scott Peck describes his theory of the four stages of community building. The first is pseudo-community, where members interact and behave in superficial ways to avoid conflict. I think that best describes the state of most social media interaction.
However, social media is a powerful platform. Through reach, frequency, and immediacy, social media is transforming the personal, family, and social sphere. In Peck’s nomenclature, a sense of community comes from going beyond superficial interaction; hiving around common issues, problems, and needs; developing supportive norms and behaviors for community interaction; and working through difficulties and misunderstandings to achieve community-based learning, problem-solving, and understanding. To achieve sustainability, virtual communities must continue to evolve toward this sense of true community.
Trends and influences
The drive toward true community is already giving rise to the need for specialized private networks. These so-called “white label” platforms provide a generic, almost invisible platform for a community to build and brand its identity through member engagement and user-generated content. These personalized social networking platforms are emerging to fill the desire to achieve true community outside the commoditized, widely known social media sites. Check out these examples:
The convergence of social media to mobile will also influence virtual communities, not because of the mode itself, but because mobile is a ubiquitous, global presence that is embedding social media in all aspects of life. Community members can engage with greater relevance in real-time through mobile social media applications. Your community is never farther away than a text, tweet, or post on a mobile device that is often the first and last check-in of the day.
According to Mayfield and Rheingold, “a particular kind of literacy is necessary for the potential power of communication networks to manifest . . . the skill sets that accompany media such as writing are complex and entail each individual tool-user’s social involvement with a community of other people who have also mastered the skill.” Rather than degrade written communication, as many have theorized, social media may give rise to a renaissance in writing skills by creating the need for brevity, precision, and power.
Virtual communities and social media will continue to evolve. True community is achieved when neither the medium nor the technology defines the community, but rather it is defined by the quality of human interaction. What virtual communities do you participate in? What brings you back again and again? What one thing would you do to deepen the sense of true community?
Federman, M. (July 23, 2004). What is the meaning of the Medium is the Message? Retrieved May 27, 2012 from http://individual.utoronto.ca/markfederman/article_mediumisthemessage.htm .
Hendrickson, M. (July 24, 2007). Nine ways to build your own social network. Tech Crunch. Retrieved from http://techcrunch.com/2007/07/24/9-ways-to-build-your-own-social-network/
Hinchcliffe, D. (March 22, 2010). When online communities go to work. Enterprise Web 2.0. Retrieved from http://www.zdnet.com/blog/hinchcliffe/when-online-communities-go-to-work/1342
Mayfield, R and Rheingold,H. (2008). Participatory media literacy. Social Text. Retrieved from https://www.socialtext.net/medialiteracy/
Peck, M. Scott. (1988). The Different Drum: Community Making and Peace. New York, NY: Touchstone.