At seven seventeen this morning i crossed into the Arctic Circle for the first time. In the time honoured tradition, King Neptune himself came on board to welcome us, give us safe passage, and for those of us making the trip for the first time, to pour a ladle of ice and cold water down our necks. So much for tradition. Why? Because that’s what’s done!
It’s an interesting piece of folklore, theatre enacted time and again, something that has passed from superstitious belief into an act for tourists, although still with a certain charm and purpose: it brings people together.
Friends and strangers, watching the show. Society is based upon commonality, about having shared interests, be that an interest in survival in rough seas or an interest in sharing and trading food and artefacts. Society is pulled more closely together by acts of theatre (or religion) such as this. The fact that you know about it beforehand, the fact that it’s done on many ships in many places doesn’t detract from the experience: it adds to it.
Because now i’ve been initiated. I’m in the club. Next time i cross the circle, i won’t need to go through it again, because i’m in already. Trials, tests, initiations, these are things that bring people together, that bond us in our purpose of shared self interest.
We should think about this when we are trying to fabricate artificial communities of learners, online environments or communities of practice. What are our initiation ceremonies? Is it just the modern initiation of ‘registering’ for a site, or should we be more creative than this? Can we learn something from folklore about how people come to feel a sense of belonging?
Heading North: the blog is on holiday exploring the coast of Norway for two weeks, heading up the coastline to the arctic circle. Holidays are times to explore new things, so we may detour from normal service for a few days.