«Title of Dissertation: Community journalism as ritual: A case study of community and weekly newspapers in Laurel, Maryland Lindsey Lee Wotanis, ...»
Community members also may share a common history (or collective memory) of living in a town through all its changes, or living through a war or even a social movement and all its challenges. Remembering times gone by can be more powerful than living in the present for many communities, when memories serve as the bond that people share. Communities based on memory are ones ―that derive from long-established belief systems that link the present and the past‖ (Fowler, 1995, p. 91). They are molded from traditions and religion, as examples. Selznick (1992) argued that ―the bonds of community are strongest when they are fashioned from strands of shared history and culture‖ (p.
361). Shared history helps people to feel a sense of belonging and rootedness.
Similarly, communities also form around common interests in things ranging from crafts and sports to humanitarian issues and philanthropic causes.
Goode (1957) identified communities of interest when he recognizes that people of a profession often called themselves a community. These people, who are not
membership criteria such as education and prestige. Their common professional interests connect them in a variety of ways, which may include working together to set and uphold ethical standards of practice, strive for newer, better ways of practicing their profession, or acting both collectively and individually in a manner that is socially responsible. Though the members of such a community may not interact personally with regularity, buying into such shared goals and working towards them, even if on an individual basis, contributes to a sense of community—a sense that others like you, in a similar position, are acting in a manner similar to you in an effort to achieve goals valued by the community.
But needing to share some things in common does not require community members to share all things in common. Differences among members can help to strengthen community bonds as much as commonalities, if they are valued and respected. Without some differences, communities would not be able to meet the needs of their members. ―As a framework for common life‖ communities must ―develop some division of labor, some system of authority, some proliferation of roles, groups, and institutions‖ (Selznick, 1992, p. 367). Even in the smallest communities, individuals—equipped with their own unique skills and abilities— contribute to community life in ways that their fellow members often cannot.
They lend their expertise to different activities, so that goals, which benefit the entire community, can be met. Communities often do this by forming subgroups, which help us to create ―multiplex relationships‖ (Selznick, 1992, p. 370). Even within one community, we may serve multiple roles. For instance, a woman may
the PTA, neighbor, and colleague in the same or other communities (p. 370). By playing different roles, individuals not only make multiple important contributions to their communities but also, they are able to maintain their individuality. These ―mediated membership[s] and multiple affiliation[s], working together, enhance solidarity at the same time that they preserve independence‖ (Selznick, 1992, p. 370). By playing multiple roles, people interact with many others forming relationships, the third condition for community.
Condition 3: Relationships People can share things in common, but, whether when coming together in a physical place or in non-territorial sites, community will not form unless people work together at forging relationships, which can exploit all of the possibilities for community at hand. Community requires that people be engaged in meaningful exchanges—hence where the fuzzy notions of the term come into play. As Williams (1983) pointed out in Keywords, the word community rarely is used unfavorably; rather, it is a ―warmly persuasive word to describe an existing set of relationships‖ (p. 76). In formulating their own definition of community, McMillan and Chavis (1986) noted that a definition needed ―to represent the warmth and intimacy implicit in the term‖ (p. 9). For Block (2008) community ―is about the experience of belonging. We are in community each time we find a place where we belong‖ (p. xii). In his view, the word ―belong‖ takes on two meanings: ―to belong‖ means to be a part or member of a community. But
―sense of ownership and accountability‖ (xii). This sense of belonging—as well as of ownership—is fostered through human relationships. Morgan (1942) argued that a community‘s members are people who to a considerable extent have cast their lots together, who share problems and prospects, who have a sense of mutual responsibility, and who actually plan and work together for common ends. There must be a mutual understanding, respect, and confidence. There must be mutual aid—willingness to help in need, not as charity, but simply as the normal mode of community life. There must be a feeling on the part of each individual that he is responsible for the community welfare (p. 22).
In his oft-cited work on the collapse of community in the U.S., Putnam (2000) postulated that community is made possible through ―social capital,‖ or ―connections among individuals—social networks and the norms of reciprocity and trustworthiness that arise from them‖ (p. 19). As a member of a community, an individual has some of his needs met by belonging to the group; as a result of his belonging and contributions, he helps other individuals to help meet their needs, thus fostering a sense of reciprocity among the membership. Selznick (1992) added that for a community to for flourish, its members are and are expected to be ―appropriately present […] on many different occasions and in many different roles and aspects‖ (p. 364). High levels of participation are required in order for the relationships to form and the work of community to be accomplished.
discussed in greater detail in Chapter 3) have changed the understanding of community, in that they allow humans to have meaningful interactions without physical proximity. However, whether or not they succeed in creating new communities or supporting existing ones are questions with which scholars are continuing to wrestle.
Wellman (1999), studying networks, argued that social network analysis changed the way we can understand community—as divorced from place.
Network analysis ―avoids the assumption that people necessarily interact in neighborhoods, kinship groups, or other bounded solidarities‖ (p. 17).
Conversation and meaningful dialogue are necessary for communities to work together to maintain peace and order or achieve common goals; communication technologies now allow us to form relationships with people from across the globe. But, do these relationships create community? Selznick (1992) argued that identifying with others does not necessarily mean we have formed or will form meaningful relationships with them that will lead to community. ―The mere fact that an identity-forming process is at work does not tell us how effective it is.
[…] Of all the elements of community, the moral worth of a formed identity is the most problematic. (This is one reason to avoid the common error of equating a sense of community with community itself.)‖ (pp. 361-362, emphasis and punctuation in original). The Oxford English dictionary defines a ―relationship‖ as 1) ―the fact or state of being related‖; 2a) ―a connection or association‖; 2b) ―an emotional (esp. sexual) association between two people‖; 3) ―a condition or
definition (especially 2a), it seems entirely possible that relationships can form via ICTs. However, romantic relationships sustained long-distance solely via ICTs are often difficult to maintain and are more likely to end in separation. There is something to be said for physical proximity in sustaining relationships. Carey (1997b) argued that we can only ―figuratively‖ live in cyberspace, and until we ―transcend our biology, we will by necessity live in real neighborhoods with real neighbors, real buildings with real tenants, with whom our lives are structurally intertwined. The imagined ecological community of cyberspace parasitically lives off the geographical communities which sustain and protect it‖ (p. 14).
Driskell and Lyon (2002) agreed that virtual communities fall short of exhibiting the qualities or traits of community grounded in place, but also in sharing, and relationships. They argued that while participants in online communities are ―topically fused,‖ they ―remain psychologically detached, with only limited liability toward other residents,‖ making cyberspace ―less likely to support true community than the environments of local place and shared space‖ (p. 387).
In other words, as human beings, people are forced to live first in the real world, and only secondarily in the virtual world. The majority of their primary needs—like those near the base of Maslow‘s hierarchy, including physiological, safety, and social needs—are satisfied by real, rather than virtual representations of, people.
online political discussion forum, did constitute a community, though one that had roots in the offline activity of more traditional political discussion and debate.
The researchers concluded that ―people are merely moving their age-old patterns of interactions into a new realm‖ (p. 25).
ICTs—which can include ―old‖ media like newspapers and television as well as ―new‖ media like blogs, Facebook, Twitter, and Instant Messaging—have proven to be powerful tools in supporting existing relationships; they function best when supporting existing real-world relationships rather than acting as the sole means of interaction for creating and maintaining virtual ones. These technologies are transforming culture and the ways in which people interact with one another, and they are here to stay. Inventors, scholars, and everyday users continually strive to use them in the most beneficial and efficient ways, as they can be powerful tools to support relationships, which can foster community.
Without relationships, people are merely strangers to one another.
But, as Jay Rosen (1997), one of the founders of public journalism, noted, unless strangers ―are also in practice as citizens‖ and ―in a conversant relationship to one another‖—no communication medium will help us to foster meaningful public life. New communication technologies may (and should) help us to develop and/or maintain relationships, but the work of making those relationships useful and meaningful is independent of those mediums and rests in the hands of individuals willing to do the work. ICTs can inspire and aid, but ultimate
All three of these conditions—place, sharing and relationships—present opportunities for communities to materialize. The strongest communities are those which exploit all three conditions simultaneously. All three conditions are important factors in the development of communities—communities that play important roles and exercise essential duties for their members, far beyond making them feel warm and fuzzy on the inside.
Why community matters As the world goes global in the twenty-first century, community is more important than ever—and not simply because it makes people feel warm and fuzzy. The way that people think about community and the way they use the word need attention and reexamination. Though Tönnies outlined community in contrast to society many years ago, several of his ideas about what constitutes ―community‖ remain relevant today. Communities still primarily arise as a result of locality, relationships, and shared interests, as discussed at length in the previous sections. But today, rather than being requirements for community, these three are better considered ―conditions.‖ Calling them conditions rather than requirements suggests that when they are present, community is possible— but not inevitable. And, because community is possible under these conditions, rather than inevitable, people may take steps to create community where it does not presently exist, or where it is not realizing its full potential.
communities to maximize interaction among residents, like building apartments in such a way that doorways face one another and jogging trails and swimming pools converge in places where people can congregate and interact. They also create physical locators, like gates, paths, even street names to help create boundaries and shape identities within a certain physical community (Sidney Brower, class lecture, April 23, 2008). But, though her focus is on great American cities, in her canonical book, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, Jacobs (1961) rejected the notion that planning alone can actually create community. She argued that planners must understand function before they can design form: ―It is futile to plan a city‘s appearance, or speculate on how to endow it with a pleasing appearance of order, without knowing what sort of innate, functioning order it has. To seek for the look of things as a primary purpose or as the main drama is aft to make nothing but trouble‖ (pp. 14-15).
Surely, just as place alone cannot create community, neither can gates nor walking paths. However, such designs can create conditions under which community can form—though there are no guarantees, much to planners‘ dismay.
Likewise, marketing specialists strive to develop communities around specific brands, though their motivations are somewhat different than that of a city planner. Marketers try to draw people into brand communities in order to build or sustain a profit margin. These specialists exploit the term community for its connotations of belonging. However, according to Steiner,
identification with symbols and rituals, and perhaps even acceptance of some principles for governing membership and behavior. They lack, however, commitment to mutual aid, to respectful communication, to mutual learning and respect for difference (2010).