Wednesday, August 31, 2005

The Dark Side of Community Indicators

For a while Nancy White has been blogging about Community Indicators - "patterns of group member behavior that help us pay attention to the emergence and life of a community".

In that post she says,
Indicators are not all strength-based. Like anything, there is the light and dark of community and light and dark of a community’s indicators. This is not the utopian view. Dark indicators might include signs of exclusion, power and control struggles, banning and red-lining.
In other words, "lynch mobs are emergent behavior too". (And profound apologies to the well spoken sociologist who blogged that about two years ago, I can't seem to find the reference.)

I'd like to propose a few community indicators that, on the surface, might seem to counter idea of community, but if we back off from the light/dark binary descriptions, we may see people working together to foster community among themselves.

Community Indicators: Petitions
Online petitions have a bad reputation as not only futile but dangerously becoming a substitute for action. In a large context, they may best serve as raising awareness of an issue, but in a smaller context, they can help strengthen the ties of individuals and their group identity even when they are unsuccessful.

Community Indicators: Protest
Protest is about a group of people coming together with a unified purpose to join their voices and actions to affect change. This one is from my personal archives:
In February 1996, users on Worlds Away got so riled over delays in getting private spaces ("turfs") that they staged a sit-in. Fed up with many delays from WorldsAway's then owner, Fujitsu, avatars filled the locales where new users first arrive in the world, standing and chanting, "No turfs, no peace . . ." (the words scroll up above the game's window)-while paying per-minute online charges. To Kollock, that protest was a sign of WorldsAway's success as a community. "The simple fact that they had a protest speaks volumes about the space-the commitment and collective action."
-From Chapter 2 of From Anarchy to Power: The Net Comes of Age by Wendy Grossman,

Community Indicators: Mass abandonment
How can leaving a group be an indication that there is a community? When it's done by a group:
"So many of us don't have a gathering place that feels comfortable and communal," [Sherry Turkle] said. "For those who found that on, its transformation into a 'service' on Yahoo is a loss; they are losing something important to them.

In this case it's the loss of community feeling that is prompting some to protest against. I think the true test if this really is a community indicator is if those who leave, group together again somewhere else.

Friday, August 26, 2005

The Internet's a drunk librarian who won't shut up!

First read this comic:
Cat and Girl: Large Mediums

Now check out the links:
Candlepin Bowlers Forum

But don't bother signing their petition to save the Local TV Show, "Candlepin Stars and Strikes", it got canceled anyway:
A bad split? Channel 50 puts candlepin bowling 'on hiatus'

You didn't think I would let you get away without meme of the year, tagging:
candlepin tags on

I guess it's not suprising that a search for "candlepin" on turned up nothing (as of this writing). Within a system of folksonomy, you only get to see what people using the system see.

(Oh and, of course, there's a Wikipedia page on Candlepin Bowling, but that's like asking a pedant to explain a joke).