{teaching} Week 1 of ICM820_Tracing the Roots of Modern Communities


Welcome to Week 1, ICM 820 Community.

The goal is to analyse the idea of a community with a broad lens.

We are going to situate our current understandings of a community in a historical perspective. In order to analyze the present, and to predict the future, we need to know the past.

We will also look at a basic framework that allows us to dissect the concepts of community, and community-building, systematically in the coming weeks. 

Finally, we will review three distinct approaches to today’s communities by three distinct, and distinguished, experts. You will be asked to respond with a conclusive and coherent, yet informal and personal, reflection on the readings and related screenings (see assignment instructions below).

Prologue: The elusive concept

[Image from: http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/community%5D

Screen shot 2013-09-10 at 12.16.53 PM

Think about it for a moment — what defines a community? Your blood ties – family and friends, your professional and work-related context (SJU, Marine Corps), your consumption habits (news junkies), your fan status (Iowa Football), your other diverse interests (from history to fitness to volunteering to politics), your residence and location (Brooklyn), your citizenship (Finnish). The answer seems simple, but think about the diverse consequences that different formations of communities have, from legal to financial to emotional…

Social science research on community usually refers to 
four broad ways that the term community has been applied:

  • The social and spatial formation of social organizations into small groups such as neighbourhoods,  small towns or other spatially bounded localities.
  • Ideas of belonging and difference around issues such as identity.
  • Community as a form of political mobilization inspired by radical democracy that prompts ‘communities of action’ to oppose social injustice.
  • The rise of a global society, processes such as transnational mobility and the development of diasporas, and technological development such as global communications and the internet => ‘cosmopolization’ of community.

In this course, we explore these and other forms of communities through a lens of digital communication. After all, the concepts of community and communication are intrinsically related, as the etymology of the words suggest:

communication (n.) Look up communication at Dictionary.comlate 14c., from Old French comunicacion (14c., Modern French communication), from Latin communicationem (nominative communicatio), noun of action from past participle stem of communicare “to share, divide out; communicate, impart, inform; join, unite, participate in,” literally “to make common,” from communis (see common (adj.)).


I. How did we get here? The answer from sociology

Your readings for next week, by Zygmunt Bauman & Gerard Delanty, will give you an overview of how 2012-08-14 14.36.39important the concept, and manifestations, of a community has been throughout human history. Both authors are sociologists who have examined how the idea and ideal of community has evolved into the one as we know it, in our modern (or even post-modern) times of 20th and 21st century.

Believe it or not (and it’s hard to do so in the times of online community managers), for a while the argument was that modernity, and its emphasis on the individual, killed the idea/l of community.

Yet, it is clear, as both authors insinuate, that we are witnessing a revival of the concept. You will also learn about the duel between society and community. These readings will serve you as a background for your assignment.


II. A basic framework

For the purposScreen shot 2013-09-10 at 10.44.26 AMes of our course — to understand the complexities: There seem to be three levels through which we can examine the art and processes of community-building.The macro-level of societies (e.g., political impact, structures that allow or restrict participation); The meso-level of institutions and organizations (how digital community building works for brands; or works in the workplace); and the micro-level of individuals, their everyday life (how we all form and interact in a variety of professional and personal relationships):



III. Assignment due Fri 9/12, by midnight: Levels of Community-Building

  • Please read texts by Bauman & Delanty.
  • Please view & listen to these three materials:

(1) A video lecture by Professor Turkle,

(2) Another TED Talk by the Marketing Guru Godin,


(3) another video by former UK  PM Brown:


  • WHAT: Write an analytical comment under the theme “Approaches to Community-Building”, based on the videos.
  • HOW: Use your readings as your theoretical guides. How can Bauman and Delanty help you to understand the present? Also, when applicable, refer to the framework of layers/levels of communities (see above). Does the framework work for you in analyzing the talks?
  • Take a position: Which views — Turkley, Godin, Brown — do you believe in; what seems irrelevant, untrue, utopian? Why?
  •  Questions you might wish to ask and answer are (but not limited to):Which talk best reflects my idea and understanding of communities and community building? Why? How/to what extent do the assigned readings relate to that talk? How can I utilize those texts to analyze and argue for the relevance of the viewpoints presented in the talk I find more relevant? And what is it about the talk I find the least relevant – what are the important aspects; can the readings illuminate something about that talk? Finally, what is my most profound-take-away from these materials?
  • Post your analysis on our FB. Please feel free to use visuals (images, videos…)
  • Any questions? Email or post on Facebook!


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