Catching up with the crowd: Networks & Communities

I even took part in the event last year ::FLNW:: but I had not really taken part in the Network vs Community vs Group conversations. Didn’t feel the need. Didn’t see the point. I think I will need to face this soon however.

SO: Marshalling some references.

Social Networks vs Online Communities. David Coleman

Often the terms “network” and “community” are used interchangably, but they are not the same. The best definition that differentiates the two comes from Amy Jo Kim (author of Community Building on the Web):

A network is composed of loose ties, often the focus is on a topic or particular type of content or behavior. A community may have the same focus but the ties are stronger. No one misses you in a network; they might if you’re a popular and vocal member of a community.

Thus a community is based on fairly intense interactions between its members, while a network is not. According to Ross Mayfield, the founder and CEO of Socialtext, communities are:

  • Top-down
  • Place-centric
  • Moderator controlled **
  • Topic driven
  • Centralized **
  • Architected

While Networks are:

  • Bottom-up
  • People-centric
  • User controlled
  • Decentralized
  • Context driven
  • Self-organizing

**NOTE: Moderator ‘controlled’/Centralised are NOT givens, but I do believe community needs a place.

Amy Jo Kim again. Her Nine Principles. Definitly NOT a network thing.
=I read a lot of this book while at Bronwyn’s place recently. It is surprisingly prescient. Amazingly so.

Lizzie Jackson. “Online communities and social networks are very different, the first offers a sense of place, the other is not a place but a kind of group consciousness grown from comments, images, addresses, photos, and appointments to do something or be somewhere (whether real or virtual). <snip>Social Networks are largely managed or organised by the user-interface in tandem with the content posted into the network”.
=Clarification. All Networks are not Social Networks.

Mark Nichol’s comment on Stanley’s Blog. “Perhaps it might be more accurate to suggest that the role of the teacher solely as transmitter of knowledge is subsumed into more of a holistic role, as a high-status member of a *network* made up of ontological equals. True, we are all equal – but we are not all the same”.

Plus there is Leigh there also: “This networked communication is different to what many of us are used to, and different to what the majority of us experience. But it is significant. It is this form of communication – with all its promise of equality, democracy, and other egalitarian principles”
=Hmm. Leadership, roles, hegemony.

Networked learning.
=Not looked here much.

What about tools? In some respects this is also an issue that impacts: Blogs vs Forums, the impact of blogs and wikis on community practice. Nancy White’s article is significant and worth a read. I’m worried if there were ONLY blogs and wikis and not closed forums some could not make the leap. We need the closed home space, the ‘kitchen/parlour’ metaphor of cpSquare. And we need the free range feeding grounds in formal taught courses, or graduates will emerge with their wings atrophied.

Something new has happened, something in our minds and habits and attitudes.

Things I want to consider:

  • Roles: moderation vs facilitation vs leadership (Teaching??)
  • Modes: Open/closed
  • Care and nurture: Will anyone care for you in a network? Where does care come from? Where is someone to love outside communities.
  • Take some case studies: What is Nancy White’s Online Facilitation list? What is CPSquare? What is TALO/FLNW? What is a typical Facebook group? The group behind WikiHow?
  • To have a place or not? To NEED a place or not?
  • Language.
  • Membership and Identity.

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