In my last post about WikiLeaks, I used the term, “community of interest.” What’s this all about?
Let’s start with a very simple analogy: Primitive humans, in prehistoric times. These folks quickly formed communities of interest, based on the paleontological record. Why?
- Not because they look alike
- Not because they have a family relationship
- Not because a psychologist told them they ought to do it
- Not based on advice from the most recent self-help book…
They formed communities because they were hungry, and catching a mammoth requires a group effort!
What this means, in reality, is that our notion of “community” as a cooperative group working in some sort of altruistic harmony towards a common goal or common welfare, is not a complete definition.
Communities can form for very short-term reasons, and for very selfish ones. Communities of interest on the internet form and dissolve all the time, and can often have shifting composition and purposes. This mobility of community is an interesting phenomenon. As the youngest generations, those who have grown up with Facebook, Twitter and the like, mature into adulthood, it will be interesting to see how the “moral” idea of community gets changed.
Are we headed towards a world where “community” is defined purely by self-interest? Will the variety of human motivation survive the era of instant gratification?
The community of interest organized around WikiLeaks is infuriated at what seems to be a conspiracy to close the site. This could be purely altruistic in nature, or could be motivated by a generalised anti-authoritarianism fueled by anger and frustration in the wake of events such as the recent financial crisis.
Whatever the motivation, the tools of contemporary communication technologies are playing a role not only in accompanying social change, but in driving it.