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Week 8: What is community (again)?

November 7, 2011

Prompt: How have we upheld our working definition of community that we crafted at the beginning of the quarter? Thinking about what you have learned, how might you consider altering this definition?

Our classroom community is a collection of people connected by purpose or circumstance, and can also be a source of identity and interaction for its members.”

The simple way to test this definition is to compare it to reality. Elementz and Hughes High School and all the examples from our reading are dedicated to “building community.” They are technically building a “collection of people connected by purpose or circumstance, [which] can also be a source of identity and interaction for its members,” but there’s more to it than that. We aren’t trying to build a community for its own sake, but because a community is a good thing to have. This is part of why I kept ragging on Block, because when you talk in broad terms about building connections in the community it’s easy to lose track of what that means in practice.

The simplest solution is to remove the “can also be” from the definition, so it is simply “A community is a source of identity and interaction for a group of people.” It must provide identity, because if there’s no distinction between people who are or aren’t in the community, it’s not a useful definition. And it must provide interaction, because that’s what holds a community together and makes it relevant. For example, in our classroom community, I can call up a classmate and ask what the latest assignment was. This requires identity (I know who to call), and interaction (I can talk to them). The idea of “identity” is a little slippery, as just because I personally think of myself as “middle-class” does not mean that others will view me the same way. Johnson points out in his essay, “Privilege, Oppression, and Difference,” that identities such as race or even gender are social constructs, and your identity is defined by how you are treated by others around you. This definition also gets slippery when defining interaction – The ways in which I interact with my community of friends are nebulous and I can’t make an exact list. Still, despite the fuzzy logic involved in defining a community, this is probably the most concise definition.

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  1. I definitely agree with what you said about Block. He does seem to often lose track of community in practice. I also like the way you gave examples for each part of the defintion, relating it to our classroom. How could the part of the definition involving identity be more applicable to everyone in the community? Does being part of a community help to build a person’s identity?

  2. Jessica permalink

    Very interesting amendments to our original working definition. Are you suggesting that our working definition wasn’t necessarily grounded in practice, though now it can be? I think that’s a very relevant observation, if so.

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