[Air-l] community-company, and all that

geert lovink geert at desk.nl
Tue Dec 25 22:58:59 PST 2001

> a community is a set of (possibly bounded) extra-household relationships
> that provide sociability, support and identity.
> A company is a set of legally defined rights and duties organized around
> an economic purpose.

Thanks, Barry.

I am not sure if I understood you well. Gemeinschaft could indeed be as
translated a community, but Gesellschaft is usually translated as society.
That is, society at large. The society. The definition you take here is even
smaller then community. Society as a legal entity.

I think in the Internet context the community (small, inward looking, safe,
socially depressive and resistive) versus society (large, anonomous,
liberating for the individual) could be more useful.

In 1993 when Howard Rheingold many Europeans rejected his term "virtual
community" because of its all too American approach in which the community
concept is loaded up with positive characteristics, without mentioning the
oppressive parts of community. Many Europeans that I knew were escaping
"community" when got involved in the Net and were trying to get in contact
with the big world outside. Often in the USA communities are presented as
safe heavens to protect the vunerable individual against the big evil world.

The Christian connotation of the word "community" is obvious and I guess
doesn't need to be further explained here. So why go back to some narrow
Christian concept, many friends of mine asked me? Why copy-paste US-American
concepts and a cult of fear and anxiety, this false sense of togetherness?
The Net is not a protection shield, not an escapist or utopian projection
but something real and new, not connected to some old religions of the past
which had only caused misery and civil wars.

These were all questions, as I mentioned, of the early-mid nineties. Still,
the unease of this somewhat religious term hasn't eased, altough I use the
term here and there as well, I have to admit perhaps because there is not
yet a better term. I think the concept of group (which has a whole history
of its own in both sociology and psychology) could be one. Another one,
perhaps even more problematic then community would be the tribe concept
which has an even more clear regressive element (but became very fashionable
in the nineties too). Community works for me if its well-defined, and if
there is a sense of belonging, combined with drive towards discord and
difference. Otherwise it's indeed nothing then Christian fundamentalism,
sold as homebrew sociology.

Ciao, Geert

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