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Science association renowned for its legacy of churlish behavior sees no need to change.

Satire alert: This is an Onion style parody…


The American Sciences Society announced today that it would not review the need for a membership code of conduct for its next annual meeting. This reporter visited their headquarters on M Street in Washington DC. The Society President was clear about this decision. “We’ve never had a code of conduct, and we have no need to start one now.” Steve Wilber stated. “We’re not philosophers or anthropologists, we’re scientists for Christ sake. We know better.”

When asked about the avalanche of misogynist claptrap vocalized by the Nobel-winning, first-day keynote speaker that caused the majority of female participants at the last meeting to storm out in protest and start their own society, Steve remarked, “I think everyone who was even vaguely offended is now gone. They’re welcome back, but they really should grow a pair before they return.”

Lauren Sample, the Society’s public relations manager stepped in to clarify the organization’s position. “Steve may have misspoken. What he meant to say is that our members are individually tasked to stand up for themselves any time they feel any level of harassment. If we created a politeness police, who would monitor their behavior? Will we need to create politeness police police?”

“It’s a really slippery slope,” Steve interjected, elbowing Lauren aside. “First thing you can’t say anything about how distracting their legs are in the laboratory, and before long, they’re authoring papers without a single real scientist among them. Look at Lauren. PhD from Princeton, three post-docs, and now she’s found a perfect career in public relations.”

“Real scientist?” Lauren said, taking back the microphone. “I hope you’re getting this down. Steve here, who hasn’t authored an original paper—or had an original thought—in over a decade, is fond of hiring female post-docs and having them do all the work while he comes up behind them and strokes…”

“The point here,” Steve stepped up and yanked the microphone away from Lauren. “…is that we’ve always managed to get along just fine. Anyone in the Society who has problem can send me an email. Our next meeting is in New Orleans in the fall. All of our members are looking forward to…”

Lauren leaned in and shouted, “…giving their pro forma papers and heading out to the titty bars… I quit.”

“Too late, you’re fired! Can you believe that? There she goes. Man, I would totally hit that. You’re not recording this are you?”

The point of this parody is that a clear, strong code of conduct that reflects and amplifies the core values of a community, and which is constructed, refreshed and celebrated by the community is a signal that the community has these shared values and holds them dear.

Photo Credit: Igor Pavlov CC license:

Getting a handle on community

Community builds trust

Cite as “Caron, B (2015) Getting a Handle on Community, retrieved [date] .”

The role of community may be the most important; least understood aspect of developing and sustaining knowledge sharing activities. It would not be an understatement to claim that knowledge sharing rests as much on community as it does on technology. To understand why this is so, it is important to understand that community is two things at the same time: community represents a social container, it describes the cohort, defines the membership for a group. Community also describes a quality of interaction within this group, a shared sense of belonging and trust. The amount of community in a group determines the level at which individuals will voluntarily support the goals of the group.

This second sense of the term “community” is what people are talking about when they propose to “build community”. Building more community into an organization or group gives each member a greater stake in the collective goal.

To makes things clear, let’s agree on terminology for the following section. The term “community” will be used to describe the social container and “community-sense” to describe the quality of shared belonging and trust within the group. A community is a group where the members share community-sense. A “weak” community is a community where the community-sense is low and a “strong” community is one where community-sense is high.

Community Sense

“Community-sense” is also a term used in social psychology (McMillan and Chaves 1986; Chipeur and Pretty 1999). Community-sense is what Wenger calls the “community element” of a community of practice (Wenger et al 2002). On the sociology side, community-sense also implies membership and consequent obligations, practical and moral. Community-sense provides the impetus for the informal community sanctions that help prevent “free-riders” from benefiting from the work of the community (Thompson 1993).

Community-sense is the engine for social capital (Putnam 2000), for shared trust (Fukuyama 1995), shared identity (Marcus 1992), shared intimacy (e.g., friendship) (Giddens 1991), and reputation (Rheingold 2002). On a grander scale, Anderson (1983) uses an “imagined” community to describe national societies, while the Drucker Foundation (Hesselbein, et al, 1998) posits that community-sense is the answer to many current social problems. Caron (2003) also notes that communities may not be universally positive in their social consequences (remember Jonestown and Pleasantville). 

There is also a growing literature on community (Koh, et al 2002, Smith and Kollock 1999), and community-sense (Blanchard and Marcus 2002) for virtual organizations, online networks (Cosley et al 2005, Butler et al 2007), and weblogs (Broß, Sack and Meinel 2007). Most of these apply some aspect of knowledge management (Finholt, Sproull and Keisler 2002) or social science (e.g., motivation research (Cosley 2005), emotions (Tanner 2005)).

References and Further Readings

Anderson, Benedict. 1983. Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism. London: Verso.

Blanchard, A.L. and M. L. Markus. 2002. Sense of Virtual Community – Maintaining the Experience of Belonging. In Proceedings of the 35th Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences.

Brown, J. S. and P. Duguid. 1991. Organizational knowledge and communities of practice. Organization Science. Vol. 2, No. 1. February. pp. 40-57.

Broß, Justis, Harold Sack, and Christof Meinel. 2007. Encouraging Participation in Virtual Communities: The “IT-summit-blog” Case. eSociety.

Butler, Brian, Lee Sproull, Sara Kiesler, Robert Kraut. 2007. Community Effort in Online Groups: Who Does the Work and Why? In Leadership at a Distance: Research in Technologically- Supported Work. Suzanne P. Weisband, ed. Psychology Press.

Caron, Bruce. 2003. Community, Democracy and Performance: The Urban Practice of Kyoto’s Higashi-Kujo Madang. Santa Barbara: The New Media Studio.
Available online at

Caron, Bruce. 2005. “Ethnic Cultural Theme Parks in China and Japan: Toward an Anthropology of Intentional Tradition.” in Tourism as a Complex Phenomenon. [総合的現象としての観光] Nobukiyo Eguchi, ed. Kyoto: Koyoshobo

Csikszentmihalyi, Mihalyi. 1991. Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience. New York: Harper Collins.

Chipuer, H. M., & Pretty, G. M. H. 1999. “A review of the Sense of Community Index: Current uses, factor structure, reliability, and further development.” Journal of Community Psychology, 27(6), 643-658.

Cohen, A. P. 1985. The Sybolic Construction of Community. Chichester, Sussex: Ellis Horwood Ltd.

Cosley, Dan. 2005. “Mining Social Theory to Build Member-Maintained Communities.” AAAI.

Cosley Dan, Dan Frankowski, Sara Kiesler, Loren Terveen, John Riedl. 2005. How Oversight Improves Member-Maintained Communities. Proceedings of the CHI.

Galegher, Jolene, Lee Sproull, and Sara Kiesler. 1998. Legitimacy, authority and community in electronic support groups. Written Communication, 15, 493-530.

Hesselbein, Frances, Marshall Goldsmith, Richard Bechard, and Richard F. Schubert. 1998. The Community of the Future. San Francisco: Josey-Bass.

Hildreth, Paul and Chris Kimble. 2004. Knowledge Networks: Innovation through Communities of Practice. London: Hershey; Idea Group Inc.

Finholt, Thomas A., Lee Sproull, and Sara Keisler. 2002. Outsiders on the Inside: Sharing know- how across time and space. In Distributed Work. Pamala J. Hinds and Sara Keisler. eds. Boston: MIT Press.

Giamatti, A. Bartlett. 1989. Take Time for Paradise: Americans and their Games. New York: Summit Books.





So, I’m writing a batch of user stories today for a software project. This got me thinking. What is my own user story for ello? What am I looking for that I’m not getting from Facebook, Twitter, Google+, etc.? What is a social network service for?

Part of the allure of ello is starting over. I’ve made mistakes on Facebook, liked too many pages, friended too many people. And there’s way, way too much sponsored content. And every time I refresh MY timeline, it’s completely different, and I can never find what I’m looking for, that I was looking AT just ten seconds ago. Facebook is broken. Twitter is great for immediate, topical interests, and for the buzz around events. I really like how G+ handles photos, and its search-ability. G+ is the closest service to what I envision as a great social network platform. I think ello has learned a lot from it. The problem is that people aren’t there.

What I’m looking for, what my own user story is for ello, begins with my desire to stay connected to creative people I’ve met at conferences or online, or I’ve read their books or blogs. My hope is to have ongoing, constructive conversations with them, to add my thoughts to theirs, to be able to pose a question now and then, like I would when we are having a beer at SXSW, or Dent, or (way back when) Gnomedex, or somewhere else. At it’s best, ello is an ongoing, somewhat casual connection between creative folk who happen to live wherever they do. We can log in and share a bit of insight, gain some collective intelligence, show some empathy, display some artistry, and live closer to the edge of the elsewhere where innovation happens.

I like the simplicity of the interface. I like being able to see who the people I want to follow are themselves following. I like getting informed when someone follows me. I don’t need to know should they decide to not follow me sometime later. I like how it eats up my big JPEGs. I pop these up on Flickr, so I don’t need ello to be my photo library. I really like not seeing ads. I would like to see some open-source code, as this aligns the service with its pledge to become something better than a cash cow for its makers. I would like to see ello blossom as a nextgen service, one that is owned by its users (somehow). I would also like to help celebrate the makers who would enable this kind of service.

Animated GIF by Dave Whyte @beesandbombs

Intentional Culture and Anthropology: ten years later

That's me with the camera

That’s me with the video camera

Ten years ago I published a paper (in Japanese) about doing an ethnography of intentional cultures and traditions. Ten years before that, I was capturing the very intentional effort of a Korean cultural community in Kyoto to build their own public festival. In the past ten years, I have been working toward an understanding of virtual communities in the arena of science research and data.

Here is a link to the English version of my 2004 paper: Ethnic Cultural Theme Parks in China and Japan: Toward an Anthropology of Intentional Tradition


Intentional cultures are not limited to theme parks and cities (such as Las Vegas) that are rebuilt as theme parks, but can be seen as the future of traditional (or post-traditional) culture. The act of producing intentional tradition represents a mode of “detraditionalization” in Giddens’ perspective: “A detraditionalizing social order is one in which the population becomes more active and reflexive, although the meaning of ‘reflexive’ should be properly understood. Where the past has lost its hold, or becomes one ‘reason’ among others for doing what one does, pre-existing habits are only a limited guide to action; while the future, open to numerous ‘scenarios’, becomes of compelling interest (Giddens, 1994, 92-93).” Theme parks compete with each other and with other types of destination for scarce tourist cash flows. The ability of cultural theme parks to innovate traditions—to attempt to manage their future—is crucial to their competitive position. So too, the workers in these theme parks use intentional traditions to innovate their own ethnic markers and construct cultural practices that offer them a future in the tourism industry: the world’s largest industry. And these ethnic markers and cultural practices are highly competitive as valued tokens in the economy and society of ethnic minority locales around China. In Japan, foreign-themed parks reinforce the islanders’ sense of belonging to the wider world. These offer local experiences of far-away traditions, experiences that are added to their visitors’ reflexive construction of their sense of self and national identity.

Giddens, Anthony. 1994. Beyond Left and Right: The Future of Radical Politics. Stanford: Stanford University Press.

Photo by Erich Schienke

Opening up the Virtual Democracy Blog

This blog has been focused on conversations about society on the web. As we spend more and more hours hooked into socially networked media feeds and opportunities to interact with others who are otherwise strangers, we need to look at the quotient of the time our own voices matter in this mix. Having a say in the place where we dwell is as important on the web as it is in our towns and families. This thread of conversation will remain a part of the blog. At the same time there are a number of other questions concerning how information and knowledge are generated and controlled, that we, the cybersocialstructure team want to open up to a wide range of conversations. So, expect good things to come.

Photo Credit: aurelio.asian on Flickr

Robert Darnton: “A digital library better than Google’s” (NYT)

this is the link

Darnton says:

“…we should not abandon Google’s dream of making all the books in the world available to everyone. Instead, we should build a digital public library, which would provide these digital copies free of charge to readers. Yes, many problems — legal, financial, technological, political — stand in the way. All can be solved.”


And he’s right…

Facebook, schmacebook: We’re getting tired of shopping at the company store

I can’t wait to get off Facebook. Everyone I know can’t wait to get off Facebook. We are all waiting for the next good thing to come along and take us off this island of wasted opportunities. The two questions surrounding this situation are these: what’s wrong with Facebook? and what can we know, say, or do to help the next good thing happen?
A large problem with Facebook has to do not with what it does (or fails to do) but what it is. In fact, Facebook nailed the whole “social” side of social networking early on, only to then lose it. Facebook is a piece of software run by someone else with a business model designed to maximize how my content can be used by them to make money, but not for me. I donate my content and my time, and they keep tweaking the service to make my contributions more valuable for them. This situation is hardly a secret, so we are not talking about deception here. Just bad faith. Facebook is a social network service designed to convert my efforts (and those of 500 million others) into their IPO. Fine. For this, what do I get? A place to pop up microblogs (status updates). A space for random photos and videos (and a not very good service in terms of storing and retrieving these).  A constantly changing user interface that sends me suggestions I don’t need. A collection of my stuff that forever and without compensation now belongs to Facebook. There is no exit from Facebook. Users can only flee. But flee to where?
The next good thing in social networking will have to so several things better than Facebook:
  • Be big and small at the same time. Be a network of networks where each network has the means and the incentive to become more coherent and thus more useful and attractive. 500m members don’t help me out. 500 of the right members, with the right tools. That’s what I’m looking for.
  • Build in real reputation services, on top of powerful collaboration and publication tools. I’m looking for a place to publish once and publish everywhere. I need to know who’s reading what I contribute. I want to reward others for their insights.
  • Build in content sharing services so that I can load up my really good content and have this licensed (Creative Commons) and cited.
  • Build in property and privacy rules so that I control my own contributions. Give me an exit that packages all my content for me to take somewhere else and erases all of this on the system. Chances are I will not use this, simply because it is there. If you love my content, let it go. That’s how you get me to stay.
  • Last, and most importantly: build in network governance so that I have a say in how my social network(s) in the system are managed. I might want to donate some time to curate a part of the content. I might want to help build some policies about member services. Governance is the launching pad for network growth. When members own their own networks they care for and about these. Leaders emerge. Members become evangelists. This is the future of social networking. It looks a lot like democracy. Get used to it.
Back when a mining company opened up in a remote village it would force its workers to use the company store by paying them with scrip only that store would honor. The prices in the company store were managed to the company’s benefit. Often it was a pastel kind of slavery. Sound a lot like Facebook? This is where we are today in the tail-end of the first generation of social networking. We are living our online lives in the company store. And we are ready to jump ship.
Photo Credit: CC licensed for reuse by jekemp