I’ve dedicated today to writing a chapter for David’s next book on Learning Technology. My section is entitled ‘How gadgets help us to learn‘. As usual when i’m writing, i’m sharing some extracts as i #WorkOutLoud, so here’s part of what i’ve written today around ‘Community‘. It’s one of the four aspects i’m considering, shown in this illustration.
The Social Age is lived within and alongside our communities. We engage in many different spaces for many different purposes, but with some commonality. Communities are the basic units of sense making: they help us figure out what to do and how to do it. But only if they are cohesive in values and purpose.
Consider those two things: shared value, shared purpose. Without them, there can be no coherence, no matter how good your technology. Gadgets can connect us to community, but they won’t give it purpose and they won’t make it cohesive. You can’t build a technology for trust.
It works like this: there’s a cost of membership. By being within a community, we align ourselves to shared purpose, common goals. But we may not be totally aligned: typically we are aligned enough to keep us engaged, but with areas of difference. Communities are thus cohesive, but with tolerance generated by these internal differences. Sub communities may form around these areas of difference (which can, in turn, lead to corrosive spaces if we are not careful, but that’s a different story, not for here). If our views start to differ too widely from those of the community, we may either select ourselves out of it, or be selected out of it and given the boot. Coherence comes from the shared value: it’s a direct foundation of the trust that’s needed to fully engage in the space.
And purpose? Communities need purpose: it may be as prosaic as survival, or as specific as mapping the human genome. But the purpose contributes to unity and coherence.
So shared value and shared purpose: how are they reflected in technology? Often not at all is the answer: instead, we focus technology on membership, gamification and metrics, totally missing what gives a community is power and value. We worry about how people log in, how they retrieve their password or how we moderate their comments. But we don’t worry about how they build trust and how we deal with the sub communities and their specific needs.
Gadgets connect us to our community: my phone links me to my Facebook community (and various ‘pages’, which house sub or parallel communities within it), as well as my Twitter community, the WordPress one, LinkedIn, my Vine and SlideShare communities as well as less easily defined ones. Such as the community i would turn to for inspiration. Or for challenge. Or help.
We sometimes mistake the act of connection for the benefit derived, but in fact it’s simply the conduit through which the conversations flow.