Spaces, Places and Community

A place may be a space, but it’s not always a community. A community may be a place, but doesn’t have to occupy a particular space. A space may lack community and therefore fail to be a place at all. Or at least a place worth visiting. Semantics are never a good thing when jet lagged.

Spaces, places and community

Organisations are obsessed with spaces: creating space, occupying space, making spaces secret or social, trying to make people act in certain ways in certain spaces, and not to act in certain ways in others. Organisations often partition the world by space.

Places we remember: the place we grew up in, the place we had our first date, the place we are happiest. Places are spaces, overlaid with context. Places are special, spaces are two a penny.

Community is about conversations: it’s independent of both place and space. You can build a space, but unless it’s an appealing place, we won’t get community.

The conversations where community resides are mobile, fluid, adaptable: try to own the technology and the conversation moves. Try to control the conversation and it ebbs around your fingers, flowing into new and possibly secret spaces.

Community decides if a space is a place: it’s the community who has the final say. Sure, we can make people come together, but we can’t make them be a coherent community. We can impose purpose, but never values.

So maybe organisations need to focus less on spaces and more on community, because if we build our communities to be high functioning, they will make a place that they value to inhabit. And if we are lucky, we’ll be invited to visit.

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About julianstodd

A learning and development professional specialising in e-learning and learning technology.
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