{teaching} The Roots of Communities_ICM820


Welcome to Week 1, ICM820. This week’s goal is to analyze the idea of a community with a broad lens.

We are going to examine the idea of community from a historical perspective. In order to analyze the present, and to predict the future, we need to know the past. We are also going to look at a framework that allows us to dissect the concept community systematically.

I. Takeaways from Introductions: Our Focus on Digital Community Building

(Note that your detailed comments on great and questionable communities, and your suggested readings, will be included in the Week 2 discussions and assignment.)

  1. Most of us identify both personal and professional communities — and that is directly reflected in the kinds of digital communities we belong to. (This might not come as a surprise  but it is significant when we begin to examine how different kinds of communities work; how their codes of conduct may differ and how they can be managed.)
  2. We share the interest for PR and the use of the digital in that realm – whether for commercial or non-profit, political or social justice purposes.
  3. Some specific themes that seem to emerge:
    • social justice advocacy, US and globally
    • arts & social change
    • sports & social change
    • political communication
    • criminal justice
  4. Twitter seems to be one of the most revered digital platforms — many of you mentioned the power of hashtags as forming a community. (As at this week, you can check out #ICM820 on Twitter for news and issues related to our course — just FYI, not obligatory.) Facebook was mentioned, in general and in terms of specific groups– and as we know, it is the big ‘equalizer’ in terms of user demographics. But, as a couple of you mentioned, WhatsApp and Instagram are very powerful tools, too; getting more and more popular and being explored by news organizations and brands alike.
  5. Some challenges you identified (as in ‘questionable’ and ‘malfunctioning’): anonymity and lack of authenticity,  slacktivism, ‘click and bait’ – force-fed content, hijacked content (e.g., hashtags ‘stolen’ and used for opposite purposes), lack of diversity (or, as Eli Pariser would say, filter bubbles), trolling — and forgetting the ‘community’ aspect in digital communities.
  6. These issues and interests will give us a roadmap for this course: They will provide us examples as to our analysis. I would also like to add two specific things: digital tools and work; and digital communities and new business models.
  7. What starts to emerge is a framework for analyzing issues around and about digital communities. This allows us to look at the interconnectedness between societies, organizations, and individuals; whether we discuss the use of Twitter in digital diplomacy, or discuss Tinder and the Millenials:

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II. Of Course I know What a Community Is… Right?

Image: http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/community

Screen shot 2013-09-10 at 12.16.53 PMBut first things first: What is that ‘community’ in ‘digital communities’, actually? Unified body of individuals, state, species in a common location, group linked by a common policy…? As we can see from the dictionary definitions, there are many ways we can approach the idea and ideal of a digital community.

III. How did we get here? Society vs. Community

Community has never been a static concept, and when studying digital communities we are also seeking new definitions, parameters, and norms for the concept. Your readings for next week, written by two sociologists, the theorizer of conditions of globalization Zygmunt Bauman (‘Overture’) and the summarizer of the concept of  community, Gerard Delanty (‘Chapter 2’). They 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.

Believe it or not (and it is 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. It is clear, as Delanty notes, that we are witnessing a revival. It is also clear, as Bauman attests, that community is not a fixed idea but quite an elusive, perhaps Utopian, concept. You will also learn about the duel between society and community. These readings will serve you as a background for your assignment.

IV. Assignment due 9/18: Levels of Community-Building

  • Please read  texts marked as [Week 1]  on Dropbox: Bauman & Delanty.
  • Please screen these three talks:

(1) A video lecture by Professor Turkle,

(2) Another TED Talk, by the Marketing Guru Seth Godin (click HERE).


(3) Another video by the former UK PM Brown:

  • WHAT: Write an analytical comment under the theme “Approaches to Community-Building”, based on the videos/podcast.
  • HOW:
    • Use your readings as your theoretical guides. How can 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 in that one; can the readings illuminate something about that talk? Finally, what is my most profound-take-away from these materials?
  • Post your analysis on Facebook as a comment of 1-2 short paragraphs. Please feel free to use visuals (images, videos…)
  • Email me or post a question on Facebook if you have any questions!


{teaching} HONY

Good News, ICYMI, Teaching

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I teach a course on digital communities, in which we explore the idea/l of a community, and look at theories of online communities. (if interested, take a look at my previous course blogs here and here).

While Fall 14 semester is still far away, I have already begun to plan the course — because of HONY – the photo blogging art/book/Facebook project based in New York.

I have decided that we will explore the issues of


gender, race, and class,

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globalization and migration,



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as well as states of alone-togetherness (as by Turkle)

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‘cognitive surplus’ and generosity (as by Shirky),


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and even some concrete lessons about social media, marketing, copyrights and crowdfunding.





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We will try to get to the bottom of why this multimedia art project / global Facebook debate forum has touched so many people all around the world. Why and how did HONY become a community?

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