This posting originated as a response to Rebecca O.G. Marshall’s recent blog on community building. I’m unable to find the blog again though I did find her Facebook wall by searching members at the CCK11 Facebook group. Sometimes references disappear. Sorry if this sounds out of context.
Hi Rebecca, good points on building an online community. The honesty point sometimes needs to grow from people’s experience in the group. Once people feel comfortable they add tolerance for others being socially clumsy at first . Without sensory cues it’s hard for people to “read” the reaction of others. Having said things that inadvertently hurt people I suggest learning the skill of apology so it doesn’t sound formal and fake. I’m about to do my first undoing of damage pretty soon and then I’ll know how to do it.
From the dark side of community our college started an online community for all staff and faculty to exchange ideas and socialize. They put someone in as moderator who understood the purpose to be exchanging cookie recipes and she constantly scolding people for being “grumpy” when they had an honest problem. The group collapsed when the president started posting thinly disguised threats to people who disagreed with him. When it happens that someone with power to hurt is part of a group it would be nice if there were ways to correct the situation though my current opinion is to just go off and start another discussion.
Since then a face book page has been established and no one dares go beyond “safe” content. The fall-out from this is that in spite of a fortune in being spent on training teachers to become updated to online delivery over the last 6 years nothing has happened. No one will gather on campus for fear of being watched. Communities based in the college have been suggested by management but comments need to be cleared through the public relations department prior to publishing. An absurd restriction.
To me, community is a product of people’s needs and should not be confined to allegiance to power and that includes institutional sponsorship. To me this lines up with Etienne Wenger’s definition of situated practice emerging from participation. Nothing arises spontaneously or genuinely with systems of control already worked out.