More About Communities of Interest

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.

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About Ray

Ray Gallon is co-founder of The Transformation Society, a research and consulting company, and owner of Culturecom, a company that provides business process improvement through communication. He has over 40 years as a communicator, first as an award-winning radio producer and journalist, then in the technical content industries. His management experience includes a stint as program manager of WNYC-FM, New York City’s public radio station. Ray has always been interested in the meeting point between technology and culture, and has used his broad experience to advantage with companies such as IBM, General Electric Health Care, Alcatel, 3M, and the OECD, as well as in smaller companies and startup enterprises. He has been quoted as saying, “Since the beginning, I have been, paradoxically, communicating and shooting myself in the foot. I find that this combination leads to fascinating outcomes that have made me one of the most fortunate people I know.” Ray is a university lecturer and a speaker at events throughout the world. He has contributed articles and chapters to many books and periodicals and is the editor of the recently published “Language of Technical Communication” (XML Press).
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One Response to More About Communities of Interest

  1. @NewsNeus says:

    Community building is not just a side effect of meeting pals with the same interests or aims in life: it can also be the conscious result of a planned strategy for creating future playing-fields to meet, exchange, grow and find further paths together.
    In other words, it is not just the tribal need to hunt a mammoth that counts, but the strategic vision of thought leaders to provide experimental communication spaces. And this vision shouldn’t be seen as altruistic, but as a clever strategy for ensuring sustainability.

    -Do you want to promote the transcendence of your message? Let’s create a community.
    -Do you want to get free opportunities with creative lateral thinking? Invite your clients to provide opinions and ideas
    -Do you want your product to adapt, evolve and generate loyalties? Allow costumers to participate in changing what’s necessary.

    Communities offer growth spaces for our personal and cultural spheres!

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