I’ve been thinking a bit about communities lately. When I went to high school, you could say that I belonged to a community. There were about 200 in my graduating class, and we all shared similar experiences. We were the same age, lived in the same country, the same state, and the same city. We had the same teachers, ate the same lunches, read the same textbooks, and to a large extent, occupied pretty much the same space at pretty much the same time. In a very real sense, this is what made us a community; shared experiences.
But when you think about it, outside of sharing the same space and time, we were all very different. Our interests and experiences were dramatically different, and led many to naturally end up in ‘cliques’. There were athletes, thespians, band members, cowboys. In spite of sharing much, we all had dramatically different passions.
With an online community, it seems to me that the situation is reversed. Take for instance Slashdot. Physically the users of Slashdot do not share the same space. Participants log in from all over the globe. And where my high school buddies all went to class at the same time (give or take 10 minutes, some of them were habitually tardy), slashdotters are logging in all hours of the day and night. But while we slashdotters don’t share space or time, what we do share is interests. Those that come to Slashdot come because it is clear this is where to find the ‘news that matters’. There isn’t a better place to get it. Our shared interests and passions bring us together, and we become a community despite the fact that so much else in our lives is different.
Community and social interaction is a vital part of learning. Does the classroom (shared time and space) tie us together any better than shared passions? Is one better than the other?