Re: Community

Sun, 12 Feb 1995 13:07:40 +0000

>For me the problem is this. Having said to myself, "Yes, yes, oh
>yes...what a wonderfully thought out and carefully nuanced reply,"
>where do we go from here?
>Seeker1's remarks illustrate a classic definitional/semantic
>approach to language. Here "community" is defined by a list of
>distinctive features, and candidates for membership in the set to
>which "community" refers are discriminated in terms of the
>presence or absence of the features in the list.
>I wonder if it would enrich the discussion to start in a Rouschian
>prototype theory sort of way by examining the prototypical images
>that "community" invokes for us. I will try to get the ball rolling by
>leading off with some of my own musings.
>In contrast to Seeker1's "neighborhoods" and "tenements" image, my
>prototype for community is an idealized rural town where everybody
>knows everybody and people take care of each other. I'm reminded of
>Garrison Keillor's Lake Woebegone but my visual image is somewhere
>in Vermont with a town square and a white frame Congregational

It's interesting that for each of us the archetype for what we think of
when we hear the word "community" is either rural or urban. This is
undoubtedly due to different backgrounds. When I hear the word "community,"
I think of NY tenements (those are the communities where my grampa came
from), and you think of Vermont towns...

>The church is important because, while in fact I grew up in Virginia
>in York Country, a place in transit from "rural" to "suburb," my
>parents are pious Lutherans, the kind of people who sing in the choir,
>teach in the Sunday School, serve on the church council, host the
>annual church picnic in their back yard. A formative memory for me-
>-I was only five years old at the time--is having the house we'd
>bought in what was then a very "rural" sort of place burn down. My
>Dad's father and brothers came up from Georgia, and people from the
>church pitched in to help build the house my parents still live in.
>There are things about that memory that now seem troublesome; all
>the men on the roof hammering away while the women made lunch
>and lemonade is one. I have now been married for over 25 years to a
>very independent woman who runs her own company and is handier
>with tools than I am, and our daughter has chosen to become a
>midshipman (officially a gender-neutral term) at the U.S. Naval
>Still, there's a warmth to that memory that is missing from the
>apartment complex where we now live in Japan. We greet our
>neighbors and smile in passing, but I feel closer to people like Danny
>Yee, Seeker1, Mike Leiber and John Stevens, friends I've met on
>Anthro-L, even though we've never seen each other face to face. (Eve
>Pinsker and Jim Carrier would also be on this list, but we have met
>face to face. Rick Wilk, too; but there hasn't been enough interaction
>Now I'll stop and leave some bandwidth for other folks. I am looking
>forward to hearing from you.

For some people, this is the ultimate in alienation. One of the criticisms
of virtual-communism is precisely that it takes away from investing in your
own IRL community. People give up on their RL neighbors (but that's a
process that's been part of suburbanization for a long time) because they'd
rather spend time sitting in front of a screen chatting with their virtual
ones. After all, your virtual neighbors will never raid your fridge, knock
on your door at weird hours, attempt to seduce your wife, or try and siphon
gas from your tank.

After all, from an Amitai Etzioni-ish point of view, cyberspace is just
contributing to urban decay. People are just being individualistic by
choosing to use the net as a filter to only associate 'virtually' with
people just like them. They're ignoring the somewhat less-perfect,
less-like-them people who live physically down the street, giving up on
neighborhood associations, civic groups, and crime watch groups just so
they can "hang out" with others in cyberspace. And thus their own RL
communities become subject to decay and disintegration.

I don't agree with this critique- but I understand where it comes from.


Seeker1 [@Nervm.Nerdc.Ufl.Edu] (real info available on request)
CyberAnthropologist, TechnoCulturalist, AnthroFuturist, Topothesian
Home Page URL:
"One measures a circle, beginning anywhere." -- Charles Fort