Open Science helps you become Elite, but not Exclusive.

 

Chris_Dorward_free Dive

Exclusivity stops you from diving deep.

An elite group is a group of individuals where some special level of skilling makes these particular individuals eligible to join. An exclusive group is a group that has created a scarcity and manages entry. The group reserves the rights to join. Private clubs can be really exclusive while not being regarded as elite (at least by others). I had this group of friends in second grade who would run together around the playground during recess. We were very careful not to let others join. We were practicing being exclusive. The power to say no to someone was new and satisfying. It was also mean and arbitrary. We thought we were elite. We were just stuck-up. By the fourth grade I was on the outside being told no to. Lesson learned.

Free divers as a cohort can support an elite group among them without needing to consider restricting entry, without becoming exclusive. You want to be an elite free diver? Work at it. Dive deeper. Then dive even deeper. You can achieve elite status on your own.

The Academy is already pretty elite.  Only about one percent of humans over the age of twenty-one have a PhD. Only a very small minority of people (with or without PhDs) decide to spend vast amounts of their time exploring unknowns in the universe. This means that the academy has no need to also be exclusive. Like claims for “excellence” (Moore et al, 2017), claims for exclusivity are counter-productive. They announce that science can only be accomplished by a selected few. Selected by whom? Editors at Elsevier? Still, within the cohort of scientists, some are known as really good scientists. These elite scientists are self-selecting. They select how much work they plan to put into doing good science. You want to be an elite scientist? Get really good at doing science.

Open science is an escalator to becoming elite.

Open science will help you to do what you need to do to become and elite scientist: build your knowledge, your craft, and your reach. Share your research work flow so others can offer advice and kudos. Share because sharing accelerates the feedback that drives new ideas in your own work. Share because others will take your data to places you never considered. Open science is the smart way to become elite. Be elite not through some erzatz “journal impact factor” but by sharing your work openly, and by being generous with your colleagues, particularly those few who are struggling with the same object of study you have chosen.

You and a handful of other scientists have somehow been drawn to the same problem, the same phenomenon. Together you can dive deeper into this problem than you can ever go alone. The only impact factor you need is the one that comes in your inbox from a colleague thanking you for solving one of their research pain points.

See Seth Godin’s Akimbo Podcast <https://www.akimbo.me/> Episode 14 on Genius for more on elite vs. exclusive.

Moore, S., Neylon, C., Eve, M.P., O’Donnell, D.P. and Pattinson, D., 2017. “Excellence R Us”: university research and the fetishisation of excellence. Palgrave Communications3, p.16105.

Photo credit: Chris Dorward on Flickr. CC by 2.0

Ethnic Cultural Theme Parks in China and Japan

Toward an Anthropology of Intentional Tradition

Abstract

The production of “constructed culture” as a feature of the urban landscape accelerates the consumption of such artifacts in everyday life, and prepares residents to consume similar artifacts in tourist destinations. The dream of living in a theme park is realized through intentional tradition as a model for urban planning.
Intentional traditions 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.

Resurrected from 2010 blog… which was rescued from a Google Knol

Originally published in Japanese:

2004. “Ethnic Cultural Theme Parks in China and Japan:Toward an Anthropology of Intentional Tradition.” In Tourism as a Complex Phenomenon. Nobukiyo Eguchi, ed. Kyoto: Koyoshobo. 

The author wishes to thank Professor Eguchi for his support and insights. Prof. Tamar Gordon at RPI secured the funding for the research/video project to China and Japan, and directed the documentary video outcome: Global Villages

Photo Credits: Erich Schienke

Introduction

This essay will explore four sites: the Chinese theme parks at the Overseas China Town in Shenzhen and the Ethnic Village (minzucun) park in Kunming; and the Japanese theme parks of Huis Ten Bosch near Nagasaki, and Parque España in Mie.

The author visited these locales in 2002 while producing and filming a documentary video, Global Villages: The Globalization of Ethnic Display. 61:36 minute DVD. Bruce Caron and Tamar Gordon, Producers. 2004. Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and The New Media Studio: Troy, New York and Santa Barbara, California. The author would like to thank Professor Nobukiyo Eguchi for his guidance and assistance over the years.

Each of these parks could have an entire article devoted to an ethnographic description, so this article will not pretend to fully explore the parks as ethnographic sites. The ethnography of the parks here supports notions of value in the study of tourism as a global cultural practice. The author will propose a set of problems from the literature on the anthropology of tourism, and look to these sites as resources to explore these problems. For example, legitimacy, as this is sought by the producers and accepted by the consumers is one of the problem for ethnic cultural theme parks. Unlike amusement parks, where the experience is designed to be imaginative, ethnic cultural theme parks are representational—they claim to show the authentic cultural practices of the people who perform these, or they claim to have recreated locations that actually exist somewhere else (e.g., Huis ten Bosch). As Stanley notes: “… once the notion of ethnographic representation becomes central, there is a stress on authenticity in all aspects of enactment (Stanley 1998, 171).” Legitimacy includes issues of cultural authority and ethnic identity. The problem remains, how do the theme parks establish their cultural content as “authentic”?

The second problem is that of regionality within the parks. Here the term “regionality” does not refer to geographical region, but rather to what Erving Goffman (1974) described as the basic “frames” for activity in any social setting. The “front” region represented the area of public display and attention to public norms for behavior. The “back” region represented more private or intimate behaviors that would be shielded from viewing from the “front” region (1959, 106). Bathing, dressing, sleeping, sexuality, and certain modes of relaxation would be performed in an area outside of the attention of strangers or the need to attend to normalized behaviors. While the front region can include both social behaviors and a dramatic staging (1974, 124) of social behaviors, where there is no actual “stage,” the assumption is that front region behavior is linked to the individual’s socialized self, rather than some simulation of this.

The spatial regionality of Goffman’s does not map easily into the psychological distinctions of “honne” and “tatemae” in Japanese. However, one would suspect that back regions are areas where tatemae is not required.

One important difference between ethnic cultural theme parks and entertainment theme parks (for example, Disneyland) could once be found in the former’s attempt to represent an authentic back region for the villages they assembled, and the latter’s construction of a consumer space with only front regions. This seems to be changing, with ethnic cultural theme parks abandoning the attempt at a display of “real life” (in all its regions) in favor of staged cultural display.

The third problem is how theme park cultural production relates to cultural production back in ethnic locales. Also, how does globalized cultural production and consumption affect the experience of ethnic cultural theme parks? What does this mean for the role of ethnic cultural theme parks in the management of national cultural and local ethnic diversity?  What separates the culture generated by theme parks from either the cultural production in the ethnic homelands or cultural production and consumption in urban zones? Does this new cultural production mark a shift in how nations and ethnic groups negotiate cultural heritage management?

The parks are managed by a partnership of government and corporate interests, but are well attuned to the political role they might play. “In political terms, the Folk Culture Villages theme park embodies the essence of CCP [Chinese Communist Party] policy towards democracy, religious freedom and support for ethnic cultures, designed to demonstrate to its own population and the world the tolerance of Chinese socialism. The Tibetan lamasery and the Uighur mosque are religious buildings only in terms of their original purpose and are now displayed as a political symbol as well as for the touristic gaze. The theme park ‘showcases’ the integration of the minorities into the one happy Chinese cultural family and the unity of the Chinese peoples (Sofield and Lee, 1998).”

Sites under study in China and Japan

Today, more than 300 million persons visit one or more of China’s 3000 theme parks every year (source: US Department of Commerce). Themed destinations have become an economic force and a cultural phenomenon in China. Over the past decades, Japan has also witnessed growth in investment in its themed destination sites, with new ventures in nearly every prefecture. While most of these destinations are amusement parks built around thrill rides (See also: Brouws and Caron, 2001), other parks offer cultural experiences instead of physical thrills.

The Overseas China Town (OCT) development in Shenzhen, Guangdong offers, in one locale, a schematic model for intentional culture production and consumption.  Within a walking distance there are four theme parks—Splendid China, China Folklore Villages, Window on the World, and Happy Valley—that span the spectrum of content from static miniature replica to expansive, dynamic thrill rides (picture Tobu World Square, Tokyo Disneyland, Osaka Universal Studios, and the Akan National Park Ainu Village built side-by-side).  The common thread among three of the parks is the presence of ethnically coded (Chinese/global ethnic minority) entertainers.

Huis ten Bosch has a larger “frame” as an actual cityscape, with a housing development, a full sewage treatment plant, and other urban design infrastructure. The downturn of the Japanese economy in the 1990s reduced the market value of the real estate venture significantly. It is important to consider Huis ten Bosch as a vision of an urban utopia and not simply a themed space.

The fourth park offers 1/15th scale replicas of notable places in China (including Tibet). In Kunming, the provincial government has constructed an expansive theme park of the 25 ethnic minority groups of Yunnan. These are only a few of the ethnic cultural theme parks now open in China.

In Japan, where the number of officially recognized minority ethnic groups and the number of ethnic minority individuals are significantly fewer than those found in China, recent theme park developments have explored extra-national locales, such as Holland and Spain. The Dutch city destination resort of Huis ten Bosch in Kyushu is remarkable for its investment in full-scale verisimilitude.

Intentional tradition is a term that is derived by analogy with “intentional community” which describes communities, such as “communes” that are consciously constructed, and intentional cultures, which are discursively negotiated (See also: http://www.ic.org/). Intentional tradition also marks the production of tradition in what Anthony Giddens calls the “post-traditional” age (1992, 74). Elsewhere he notes: “…as a direct result of globalization, we can speak today of the emergence of a post-traditional social order.  A post-traditional order is not one in which tradition disappears—far from it.  It is one in which tradition changes its status. Traditions have to explain themselves, to become open to interrogation or discourse.” (1994, 5). Giddens describes (ibid., 29) modernity as a time of increasing “institutional reflexivity.” Whereas in former, “traditional,” eras, everyday life was assembled without consideration for the action of assembling this, in modernity, even “tradition” will be consciously constructed.

Actual-sized buildings built with actual, imported materials, offers the Japanese tourist a high degree of simulated Europeanness. The Spanish destination park of Parque España in Mie, not far from Ise Jingu, was originally designed as a European destination similar to Huis ten Bosch.  Large market spaces (agora) from major Spanish cities form the main park, with various entertainments woven around these. In part the original design was never completed, and more recent additions have abandoned the “Spanish” theme for amusement zones and rides (Caron, 1999). Still, the park continues to portray itself as a Spanish cultural destination.

 

Intentional Traditions

The cultural productions managed in themed destinations offer anthropologists new objects of cultural study. In particular these sites are excellent examples of what I will term “intentional tradition.” Intentional tradition marks the attempt (usually by state organizations or by corporations) to produce authentic, traditional practices and locales as consciously constructed artifacts. This process contrasts with heritage management efforts to isolate and preserve historical, traditional practices and their locales.

created because they produce new sources for what Bourdieu (1984) called “cultural capital.” Historical sites, preserved as such, are certainly important sources of cultural capital, but the amount of this they provide is fixed, determined by their historical significance. Nations and locales mine this fixed asset by developing the historical site as a unique tourist destination (See MacCannell, 44-45).

Themed destinations break with the historical logic by creating their own uniqueness outside of any history, from an invented cultural production. Disney parks are prime examples. Now cloned from the California “original” (or rather the “non-original”) to Florida, Paris, Tokyo, and soon, Hong Kong; these parks have “visioneered” an acutely ahistorical cultural artifact. This artifact is bound neither by history nor location. As an example, the Shenzhen Splendid China theme park was copied in Florida, not far from Disneyworld.

The Florida park opening was marked by demonstrations about the issue of Tibet, and it never acquired a sufficient customer numbers. The park languished financially for ten years before declaring bankruptcy and closing in December of 2003.

In part, these new locales are

What was perhaps unexpected is how ethnic cultural theme parks have managed to copy the Disney example and invent new cultural capital through the same sort of cultural alchemy.

Consuming “Constructed Culture”

The production of intentional tradition at ethnic cultural theme parks creates practices that may not, in the past, have been accepted by audiences as “traditional” practices. But today, their audiences quite readily accept these traditional artifacts, even though they represent at best a sort of “constructed culture.” In fact, this constructed cultural output is actually preferred by what Mike Featherstone (and others) have called “post-tourists;” “Here we have typical sites for what have been referred to as ‘post-tourists’, people who adopt a postmodern de-centred orientation towards tourist experiences. Post-tourists have no time for authenticity and revel in the constructed simulational nature of contemporary tourism, which they know is only a game” (Featherstone 1991, 102).

The intentional traditions of ethnic cultural theme parks are—to their producers and consumers alike—traditional enough to offer an authentic experience. The seriousness of the intentions (signaled mainly by budget and attention to high production value) is now sufficient to legitimate the authenticity of the resulting practice. This means that their content is not legitimated by historical use, but rather, by the intentions of the producer. The claim made here is that anthropologists can no longer look at the content of ethnic theme parks as either a copy of some carefully borrowed traditional practice or as merely fantasy entertainment with no legitimate claim to traditional authority. Today, these parks are building cultural traditions the way Disney builds fantasies.

Intentional tradition mines the front region cultural practices of tourist destinations world-wide to construct cultural practices that the “post-tourist” in China, Japan, and elsewhere, apparently desires and pays to consume. But do these practices inform the ethnic identities of the performers or the consumers? Is there a corresponding “intentional ethnicity?” It may be worthwhile remembering that tourism has been the largest industry in the world for some years now. State tourism organizations in nations across the globe are investing in new destinations. Ethnic groups that achieve state recognition in this arena find that their relationship to the state and their internal group dynamics may be profoundly affected (Wood 1984, 1997). Once the groups have been selected by the state to participate in ventures such as ethnic cultural theme parks, the process of intentional tradition determines which of the markers (MacCannell, 74) are selected as ethnic icons. For example, in the Wa village at Chinese Folklore Villages and the Ethnic Villages in Kunming, the bleached skulls of buffalo are prominently displayed. Dances, songs, costumes—the whole repertoire of the ethnic theme park village becomes a set of ethnic markers. These markers are not simply externally applied to the performers, but are created through a dialogic process between the cultural performers and the managers, and also between the performers and their audience. Picard (1995, 1996) has noted this effect in Bali. Oakes (1997) noted that tourism in China—in response to the official recognition that the state provides to the fifty-five ethnic minorities, and the state’s ability to open up regions for international tourism—is a primary engine for ethnic groups to acquire and manage local identities.

Professional ethnic cultural performers returning from their contracted labor in theme parks in Beijing, Shenzhen, or Kunming, bring back more than the financial savings they have earned. Having danced in the theme park village shows running every hour or so, their performances achieve a level of professionalism far beyond that available back in the ethnic locale, where a dance might occur once a year, or even once in a lifetime (for a wedding ceremonial). Their dances from the parks are sometimes recreated to attract tourists to their home villages (Kirshenblatt-Gimblet 1998, 61). And having represented local ethnic identity in front of thousands, they achieve a status as a performer of traditional culture—however, their “tradition” is now informed by the intentional tradition practices from the theme park.

Intentional traditions treat cultural production as a form of expression removed from history as their primary source of legitimation. Instead, the resulting “tradition” is presented in terms of its aesthetic quality and how it measures up with other practices, local or global. Theme parks are free to—and expected to—borrow from and innovate off of other theme parks around the world. And when the park’s theme is “traditional culture” the resulting practices often blend elements from a variety of sources, with little regard for the constraints of the historical communities that might also claim authority over the tradition.

One example of intentional tradition is the  “ethnic” dances in the Chinese Folklore Villages in Shenzhen. Each dance was choreographed by the park staff to contrast with the other village dances so that the tourist would not see dances with similar styles in neighboring village performances. Elsewhere, at the “Maori” village in Window of the World, Wa and Uighur dancers learned their performances from Maori dancers from the Polynesian Cultural Center in Hawaii, who visited Shenzhen in order to train the dancers. But there are no Maoris in the Maori village. By 2002, in Huis ten Bosch, Romanian musicians and singers had replaced Dutch entertainers as a cost-cutting measure. Most of the costumed paraders in the daily grand parade in Parque España are local Japanese employees.

Huis ten Bosch declared bankruptcy in 2004, and defaulted on its nearly US $3 billion loan to the Industrial Bank of Japan. The park remains open and attracts millions of visitors a year.

Importantly, however, intentional traditions do not claim to provide a critique of the traditions they remake, nor do they add any type of performance “frame” to these. They do not parody or satirize the historical tradition. They simply acquire this and re-present it as something they are authorized to innovate upon. While it might be easier to innovate a tradition when representing someone else’s culture (as the Wa do in the “African” village in Window on the World), there seem to be few barriers to innovating on regional ethnic cultural traditions at these parks.

Competition with other parks is only one reason why cultural theme parks innovate instead of borrowing from traditional authority. The ethnic performers are also competing with one another in their villages and with other villages in the park to gain audience approval. And, in China, the parks are viewed as national cultural centers that need to add something of value as national cultural landscape. In Shenzhen, the Chinese Folklore Villages, Window on the World, and Happy Valley theme parks each produce lavish evening performances, which combine large professional casts, theatrical lighting, and orchestral music.

In the summer of 2002 the Window on the World evening show tracked world history from the Stone Age to the modern era. Over at Happy Valley, an “Aztec Carnival” was performed on the edge of an enormous swimming pool (with the audience in the pool), while at the Chinese Folklore Villages a parade of Chinese historical periods and theatrical forms assembled into a grand finale of song and fireworks. Earlier in the evening, inside a theater, Han actors put on costume extravaganza, based partly on ethnic styles and partly on globalized dinner theater (e.g. learning from Las Vegas) models. These evening events increase the paid attendance at the parks and cater to a market for short-time tourists who are bussed in after their supper banquets elsewhere. The cultural workers from the ethnic villages are expected to also work these evening shows, and some become headline performers. This is a step toward long-term employment with the company.

The constructed aspects of cultural production in the parks means that the performers become skilled in several styles of entertainment. “… the initial design and the development of the company, this entire place, especially the nationality villages, is a result of the opening and reforming policy in China,” noted one of the managers at the Chinese Folklore Villages in Shenzhen. Formerly a dancer in one of the ethnic troupes, he had risen in the company to become a choreographer and manager.

He also explained how the various entertainments fit together into a synthetic experience: “I classify our nationality culture [productions] into three levels, because as managers in the Folklore Villages we have to imagine the point of view of the audiences. The first level consists of primitive aspects such as dance, singing, and costumes, and also includes interactive activities. The second level involves professional modifications to some aspects of these cultural productions. The third requires research in order to further [develop] creative modifications through big shows and commercial packaging to build a perfect items of Chinese culture.” These three levels are difficult to keep separate in practice, as the same employees may perform at all three levels. Career advancement is keyed to developing one’s talent for third-level performances.

This explanation of cultural production at the Chinese Folklore Villages fits entirely into the mode of intentional tradition. Notice what is missing; there is no call for the preservation of a borrowed traditional practice, no careful reproduction of an authorized performance, no link back to any actual practice from the original homeland. Instead, the resulting performance gains its effect through the improvements made using “professional modifications” to the underlying “primitive” level.

At the end of each performance in the parks, the audience is invited to join into a dance, or simply to touch the performers and pose for photographs. The performance has achieved the threshold of its audience’s sense of authentic experience, and then invites the audience to physically share this experience with the performers. This sharing resembles that moment of cultural contact that ethnologists experience when they arrive in the field. Visitors are encouraged to encounter other ethnic cultural groups as individuals, to touch them and acquire a feeling of cultural understanding.

At Huis ten Bosch, the sense of contact is created by simply arriving at the park. Checking into the Hotel Europa (or one of the other hotels) is physically like stepping into Europe (except that the staff speaks Japanese). The rooms are European in scale, far larger than most Japanese hotel rooms. Then a stroll out into the streets, over bricks imported from Holland, reinforces the feeling of being outside of Japan.

One of the few Dutch employees of Huis ten Bosch was genuinely impressed by the quality of the simulation that the manufactured cityscape offered to its visitors. “All this place lacks are drugs and hookers” he remarked with a combination of humor and respect. This comment actually touches on the main problematic for Huis ten Bosch: how to create a Dutch destination experience without experiencing Dutchpeople. There are no crowds of imported Hollanders adding human color to the shops and the streets, and only a few random European-looking people to garnish the architectural ambiance. The Australian water-ski team is notably blonde and young and adds a splash of excitement to the brick-lined canals. In 2002, the summer nights were enlivened by imported Cuban band. A small group of Dutch college students pursue their Japanese studies at an exchange program, but are not conspicuous to other visitors (and, one would suspect might be disappointed to have arrived to study in Japan only to be located in this consciously non-Japanese locale). The human interaction with the park’s staff is no different than what one might find in other Japanese internal tourist destinations, such as the hot springs at Noboribetsu. Here it is the architecture alone that serves to displace the visitor, and by doing this, offer them an experience of being somewhere else.

ASIDE: The author went night fishing on the canals of Huis Ten Bosch with members of the Australian waterski team: MIDNIGHT BASS FISHING

The visitor from Japan is surrounded by city marked by a blend of a familiar social manners and exotic settings. The visitor from outside Japan, particularly one from Europe, would face the opposite markers, as if wandering through a familiar city that has been somehow occupied by an army of strangers.  The Japanese visitor (the park’s main customer) is freed to experience the location without the social hesitation (and even trepidation) that the same tourist might feel on the streets of a European city—in Europe, that is—a mood that has been consciously constructed by the management as the basis for the destination’s appeal.

The intended appeal of the site is rather straightforward: the Tokyoite can visit “Europe” for the weekend or longer after a short domestic flight with no jet lag and no other cultural preparations. The promise of “Europe” can, in this case, be legitimated by the faithfulness of the simulation. The destination is designed to saturate the visitor’s time for a weekend holiday visit. Many visitors, we were told, rarely leave the expansive hotels, where outside the windows is a cityscape constructed brick-by-brick on a European plan.

Regionality           

Earlier versions of ethnic cultural display at world’s fairs and museums involved the recreation of village life as this was (presumably) lived. This would include the display of back-region activities. Facilities for cooking, sleeping, daily chores, and everyday activities were on display. As the guidebook for the Java Village at the 1893 Columbian Exposition in Chicago describes: “This village gives an exact reproduction of a village as found in the Preanger Regencies, the western part of the Island. There are one hundred and twenty-five natives, among which thirty-four are women; they show the life and industries of the common people in Java. These temporary, “living” exhibits were complemented in tableaus of the everyday life of tribal groups in natural history museums.

This practice has only recently been changed in major museums from the 1970s to the present. New exhibitions focus on the articles of practice, and avoid the staged tableaus of “real life.” This new form of display was pioneered by the National Museum of Ethnology in Osaka, Japan [http://www.minpaku.ac.jp/] and was seen most recently by the newly opened (2004) National Museum of the American Indian in Washington D.C. [http://www.nmai.si.edu/].

The goal of the living exhibits was to represent what Malinowski once called the “context of situation” of the daily lives of the people represented in the display. The people on display were instructed to act “normally” as though they were back in their home villages. They were encouraged to cook and eat, sleep and converse, play with their children, etc., as they would have back in their village. They would also make craft objects to sell to visitors. Nudity, as this was a feature of their everyday life, was transported as a feature of the “authentic” display.

At the 1939 New York World’s Fair, performers acting the roles of classical European painters would paint live nudes (always women) lounging on sofas in full view of the audience, establishing the frame of “art” as another frame that allowed nudity.

The hallmark of ethnic cultural display at world’s fair exhibits was the display of back-region behaviors—peeks into the real lives of other people. Historical parks, heritage sites, and then cultural theme parks, such as the Polynesian Culture Center in Hawaii, relied on their displays of back region activities to legitimate the notion that the “village” represented an authentic place, moved, but unchanged from its “roots”. Over the past two decades, this situation has changed considerably. Two reasons may explain this change. Firstly, back regions are very difficult to stage, and vulnerable to doubts an suspicions by the audience. Secondly, amusement theme parks (e.g. Disneyland) that do not stage back regions have been very successful and cultural theme parks have attempted to copy this success.

Dean MacCannell argued that the “back-region” of tourist destinations is also “staged,” and therefore not a real “back-region” in Goffman’s (1959, 128) terms.MacCannell asserted that, “a mere experience may be mystified, but a touristic experience is always mystified. The lie contained in the touristic experience, moreover, presents itself as a truthful revelation…. The idea here is that a false back is more insidious and dangerous than a false front… (1976, 102)”. MacCannell’s claim is that the display of a back region is structurally problematic for the site. It cannot easily be accepted (by the audience) as a real back region. And once the audience feels the back region is a lie, then the front region displays become vulnerable and the entire operation loses its legitimacy.

The same holds for the new “reality television” programs. These programs are vulnerable to suspicions that their “unscripted” dramas have been prearranged.

Conversely, Disney-style theme parks attempt to present a seamless front region display. Any preparation for a performance is done outside of the view of the consumer. Walls and plantings keep the outside neighborhood from being visible within the park. The daily grand parade simply appears from somewhere, runs its course and then disappears. Even the trash barrels are emptied through an underground system. The performers are “on stage” any time they are in the park. There are no “back-stage” tours allowed of Disney parks.

Disney-fied tradition

The parks under study in China and Japan represent new venues built in the past twenty years. These parks have abandoned an attempt to portray the back region, and focus on performances in a staged front region. The result is an experience of ethnic cultural display that is constructed more like a “land” in Disneyland, and less like a “village” from somewhere. In the Happy Valley theme park in Shenzhen, a Western-land townscape offers shows of gunplay and heroics by a cast of costumed cowboys (played by Russian actors from an international theatrical company, using a pre-recorded English voiceover) while across the park in an enchanted valley scene with a waterfall, ethnic minority actors dance and sing. At the end of each performance (cowboy or minority) the audience is encouraged to touch the actors and smile at the camera.

In the Wa village in Kunming, the female dancers backstage prepared for their dance by rolling up their blue jeans beneath their ethnic skirts so that their calves were bare. The skirts were “real,” but so were the jeans, and both were emblems of other places; the skirts of the village somewhere in Southwestern Yunnan and the jeans of the emerging cosmopolitan cultural influence in Kunming. The stage setting was made to recall the village not the global metropole, and so the jeans were hidden away (but not removed).The dances were from festivals and from romanticized courtship, and the audience was invited to join in on a circle dance at the end of the performance.

Intentional culture succeeds by avoiding displays of the everyday life of the “villagers”. This is a lesson that Disney learned early on, and that other theme parks have copied. At Parque España, the daily parade bursts from behind a set of gates, tours the grounds and returns to their hidden back stage. By creating and displaying only performances that can be accepted on their aesthetic merits, intentional cultural producers avoid the trap of attempting to create an authentic back region.

The back region is left back in the home village, and, of course, out in the dormitories where the cast members live. At Huis ten Bosch, the Australian water skiing team, housed in nearby dormitories for months, decided as a group to break the rules that the Japanese dormitory managers had set down for dormitory life; they set their own rules for visitations between the sexes, alcohol in the rooms, smoking, and music. They recreated the “back region” they would have experienced in Australia.

Over at Huis ten Bosch, the visitors get to stay overnight in the park, although the park concessions are mostly closed by 8 pm. The hotels then become the main source of evening entertainment. The visible confidence and ease that the park visitors display in their consumption of the front region Dutch cityscape and its commodities (there are many shopping and dining opportunities) reminds the observer that this place is also a fully managed theme park, and not an actual city. Just like Disneyland, Huis Ten Bosch sequesters away many aspects of mundane city life (not just Amsterdam’s famous vices). Poverty, crime, garbage, factories, illness, and death are not a part of this urban showcase. The visitors are not just travelers who have arrived to complete some work (unless they came to get married, and there are more than 700 weddings a year), they are here simply to be here, and to escape from their actual city back home.

 

Intentional Tradition as the future of cultural production

Huis ten Bosch was built as a model for future Japanese cities, with new technologies for sustainable development and a plan for 150,000 citizens (the park wall would be torn down, and the city would become an actual town). The juxtaposition of city center and theme park would compel the citizens to enjoy their urban lifestyle in a manner not possible in the overly crowded streets of Tokyo or Osaka. The intentions of the government (central and provincial) and the company were realized at a grand scale and enormous cost. However, the actual combination of city and theme park in Kyushu is not Huis ten Bosch, but rather the Jerde Group’s “Canal City” development in Hakata. This project rebuilds the city as a themed environment offering “non-daily events in a metropolitan environment” in the “largest privately developed project in Japan’s history” (source:http://www.jerde.com/go/place/canalcity).

The production of “constructed culture” as a feature of the urban landscape accelerates the consumption of such artifacts in everyday life, and prepares residents to consume similar artifacts in tourist destinations. The dream of living in a theme park is realized through intentional tradition as a model for urban planning.

Intentional traditions 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.

Bibliography

Best, Steven and Douglas Kellner. 1991. Postmodern Theory: Critical Interrogations. New York: The Guilford Press.

Bourdieu, Pierre. 1984. Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste. R. Nice, trans. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.

Brouws, Jeffrey and Bruce Caron. 2001. Inside the Live Reptile Tent: The Twilight World of the Carnival Midway. San Francisco: Chronical Books.

Caron, Bruce. 1993. “Magic Kingdoms: Towards a postmodern ethnography of sacred spaces.” Kyoto Journal No. 25. Pp. 125-130.

Caron, Bruce. 1999. “Shima Spain village: Japan brings Europe Back Home” Kyoto Journal No. 41. Online version available:http://www.kyotojournal.org/kjselections/spainmura.html

Featherstone, Mike. 1991. Consumer Culture and Postmodernism. London: Sage.

Giddens, Anthony. 1992. The Transformation of Intimacy: Sexuality, Love and Eroticism in Modern Societies. Stanford: Stanford University Press.

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

Goffman, Erving. 1959. The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life. New York: Doubleday.

Goffman, Erving, 1974.Frame Analysis. Boston: Northeastern U. Press.

Java Chicago Exhibition Syndicate. 1893. Java Village Midway Plaisance: Columbian Exposition. Chicago. [from the US Library of Congress Printed Ephemera Collection; Portfolio 18, Folder 37.].

Kirshenblatt-Gimblett, Barbara, 1998. Destination Culture: Tourism, Museums, and Heritage. Berkeley: University of California Press.

MacCannell, Dean. 1976. The Tourist: A New Theory of the Leisure Class. New York: Schocken Books.

Meyrowitz, Joshua. 1985. No Sense of Place. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Oakes, Timothy S. 1997. “Ethnic tourism in rural Guizhou: sense of place and the commerce of authenticity”. in Michel Picard and Robert E. Wood (eds). Tourism, Ethnicity and the State in Asian and Pacific Societies. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press. pp. 35–70.

Picard, Michel. 1995. “Cultural heritage and tourist capital in Bali”. In J. B. Allcock, E. M. Bruner and M. F. Lanfant (eds). International Tourism: Identity and Change. London: Sage Studies in International Sociology. pp. 44–66.

Picard, Michel. 1996. Bali: Cultural Tourism and Touristic Culture. Singapore: Archipelago Press.

Picard, Michel and Robert E. Wood, Eds. 1997 Tourism, Ethnicity and the State in Asian and Pacific Societies, Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press.

Sofield, Trevor H.B. and Fung Mei Sarah Li. 1998. “China: Tourism Development and Cultural Policies.” Annals of Tourism Research, volume 25, no. 2. pp.362-392.

Stanley, Nick. 1998. Being Ourselves for You: The Global Display of Culture. Enfield: Middlesex University Press.

Wood, Robert. E. 1984. “Ethnic tourism, the state, and cultural change in Southeast Asia.” Annals of Tourism Research. Vol. 11. pp. 353–74.

Wood, Robert. E. 1997. “Tourism and the state: ethnic options and constructions of otherness”, in Michel Picard and Robert E. Wood (eds). Tourism, Ethnicity and the State in Asian and Pacific Societies. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press. pp. 1–34.



Bootstrapping the Double-Loop Governed Organization

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Ready to blaze the trail for your organization? Photo by PixelPlacebo on Flickr. CC licensed.

So, you want to start a new virtual organization. Perhaps you have been awarded some funds to do so.

Here are Seven Key Suggestions

First Suggestion: Read Jono Bacon’s The Art of Community. Bacon has more good advice than you will find in a hundred blogs. Governance is not the same thing as management. “Don’t fall into the trap of assuming that governance is merely about decision-making. There is no reason why you can’t constrict it in this way, but you will be missing out on a wealth of opportunities to excite and energize your community.” (Bacon, 219). What Bacon will also tell you, and it’s very important, is that you need to build your community and its governance first thing. This is not a “phase 2” activity in any plan.

Second Suggestion: Connect with the community on the issue of membership. Who gets it, what levels there are, who gets to vote, who gets to lead, and how to manage conflicts: getting some early conversations done with the community, and particularly those who will be asked to volunteer, will help to draft that part of the initial governing documents. Remember that you are setting up the initial conditions for your member-led organization. Double-loop governance means that your members will be able to rethink membership rules and roles.

Third Suggestion: No matter how much you want to implement a plan with your team, and no matter how you have researched effective governance, you will only be creating a temporary framework for your membership to use as a first go-around for a governance system. Because you are giving your members the ability to make changes in the documents you have drafted , you have to understand this: they will make changes, probably right away before even an initial vote is taken. And then remember: this is a good thing. So, put the texts up on a wiki and let them have a go at it. The sooner they come to own the text, the sooner they will start to celebrate its vision.

Fourth Suggestion: Put some budget into play if you have this, but not to pay volunteers for their time (Here is some advice about money and volunteers: https://cybersocialstructure.org/2011/08/10/staffandvolunteers/). Help support communication, pay for students to do some background research for a draft business plan (the “how” of your organization), bring in some key community members for a workshop, but open this up through video conferencing, and support some others who express and interest to also be present. 

Fifth Suggestion: Always work toward a rough consensus, and never erase “minority reports.” Let conflicts rise to the surface and deal with them quickly. Leave their content open for others to see. Show your members that their time, their skills, and their opinions are honored, even if they are overruled. Jono Bacon has great advice for conflict resolution. 

Sixth Suggestion: Ignite some preliminary teamwork by having the initial community vote on two or three small, “low hanging fruit” efforts and then support ad hoc teams (clusters) to address these. By this you begin to show an initial innovation ROI the virtual organization will build upon.

Seventh Suggestion: Hold face-to-face meetings, but keep them from being PPT centric. Plan for small-group discussions and multiple breakouts, and hold the meetings in convivial neighborhoods, not airport hotels. Gather as many members as are there and read over the founding governance documents paragraph by paragraph (but only once, and then set up a process to edit the text online until the document goes up for a final vote), and let the group speak their concerns. Open up the entire budget for the membership to give their suggestions. If possible, let the membership vote on the budget after suggestions have been taken and changes made (a real vote).

These suggestions are just a starting point for boot-strapping a double-loop governed virtual organization. Once the hard work of building in double-loop governance into the culture of the organization is over, the rewarding work of seeing how this accelerates volunteer engagement can begin, and the creative work of husbanding this engagement into your organization’s business and strategic goals can be fully supported through the culture and the values, and the celebrated vision you own as a community.

Walking the walk is only hard when you haven’t tried it

For many organizations, the rush to market and the lure of some short-term exit strategy might make all this focus on congruence and culture and values and vision seem superfluous. And if your goal is to start-up and sell your business in the next 24 months, you would be wise to stick to a single-loop management plan (with a hefty stock option, because you will not have much love or glory). But if you are tasked to build a virtual organization that can stand on its community-based resources, you should seriously consider building in double-loop governance from day one.  What you are offering your membership (or your employees, or your customers) is a congruent experience: whatever your brand (or your vision) will become, it will emerge directly from your culture. When you put double-loop governance at the heart of your organization, you might want to stand back. Because ideas will definitely be having sex here.

 

References

Using Patterns to Design the Scholarly Commons

force2016

Force11 is looking to build an alternative academy based on a scholarly commons that supports the entire research to publication effort.

I just published a blog on the AGU blogspace.  Take a look here, or keep reading to get the gist.

Several groups (e.g., Force11 and theEuropean Commission) are calling for an integrative scholarly commons, where open-science objects—from ideas to published results—can be grown, shared, curated, and mined for new knowledge.

Building a commons is more complex than simply opening up objects to the public. The activity of commoning is what separates a commons from other examples of publicly shared resources. Research into the various commons found across the globe reveals that every successful commons is also an intentional cultural activity. And so, when open-science organizations talk about building a commons, they also need to consider growing a community of commoners.

How do we attain an intentional and reflexive cultural purview of commoning for science? One promising idea is to borrow from the open-access software community’s reliance on design patterns. Software design patterns reveal solution spaces and offer a shared vocabulary for software design.

A lexicon of design patterns could play the same role for the scholarly commons (See also: Patterns of Commoning). Since every commons requires a different set of practices suited to its peculiar circumstances, various commons within the academy will need to grow their own ways of commoning. The pattern lexicon would be expanded and improved as these scholarly commons emerge and grow.

Developing a pattern lexicon for the scholarly commons is an important and timely step in the move to an open-science future. Design patterns for a scholarly commons can reveal some promising solution spaces for this challenge, helping the academy make a transition from archaic print- and market-based models to commons models based on open network platforms.

Acknowledgements: Thanks to David Bollier for his contributions to this post.

Don’t like Open Science…?

…How about Ryanair’s Laws of Motion?

Science Laws to have new official names

For immediate distribution:

The International Council of Learned Societies has finalized new naming rules for scientific laws, based on negotiations with funders. These new names will be in effect for a twenty year period, starting January 1, 2020, after which a new competition will be made.

All schools, textbooks, lectures, articles, books, blogs, facebook mentions, and tweets are instructed to adhere to these new names. All digital files in any repository will be updated automatically.

names

OF COURSE… this has not happened… yet.

As Yochai Benkler warns us, science needs to step away from the enveloping need to compete in the market. “The Tyranny of the Margin – the need to compete in the market, to increase economic margins. A context where you have to compete and survive and deliver returns on investment. This postpones the ethical commitment. Entreprenuers with an ethical commitment vs investors raising money.” From: Notes on Benkler’s talk at OuiShare Festival.

2008… a dog, a cat, and a rat

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greg and his dog/cat/rat on state street

One stroll down State Street in Santa Barbara in 2008… (retrieved from a prior blog).

While one can normally count on State Street to be a bastion of conformity and bourgeois manners, not withstanding the antics of tourists and occasional juvenile hijinks. But today was a day of small revelations. On a day like this one, we can again imagine a town ready for art and conversation.

Outside of Barnes and Noble there was Greg, whose busking talent lay (literally) at his feet: a dog, a cat, and a rat in blissful harmony. Greg is energetic, enthusiastic, and likes to talk about which YouTube video does his pets the most justice.
About the time I ran into Greg, it began to rain. Here is the problem. It began to rain, a serious squall, but the sun shone brightly and not a single cloud darkened the sky. Pedestrians stood and stared at the sky. A young girl threw her arms up and cried “It cannot be raining, it just can’t!” Five minutes later the rain stopped.
Each of us on the street had a new answer to the old Creedence song, “Have you ever seen the rain?” (coming down on a sunny day).
That’s a big “yes.”
Further up the street, now in the bright sun, couples and families were sitting out at Andersons bakery. A street performer, probably homeless, carrying a guitar, went from table to table passing out five-dollar bills. The first one he gave to a young girl, who showed it to her father. “It’s real.” He handed it back to her. The second on he laid on a table of another family. The third he gave to a couple, who tried to give it back.
“Take it,” he ordered. “That’s the last of my money. The final 15 dollars in my pocket. Now it’s up to my guitar to save me.”
He strode away toward the Art Museum, challenging pedestrians to listen to a new song of his. We all watched him go. This was the first day of the rest of his career as a busker.
The spectacle of street-people giving money away on a rainy-sunny day made the stroll up State Street just about perfect.   What with the dog-cat-rat, all it needs now is a lightblueline.

What kind of ignorant fool am I now?

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[NOTE: This is resurrected from a blog post I did in 2010. Ignorance never goes out of fashion.]

Another week, and a week of reading through another flurry of aggravated blogs and blog comments on topics environmental, political, and other. One of the common strategies in these postings is to accuse someone of ignorance. “That ignorant so-and-so can’t seem to understand ________.” Calling someone ignorant is an increasingly easy, and unfortunately increasingly non-trivial attack these days. Me, I can’t understand how anyone would consider Donald Trump to be in any fashion a candidate for president. To some of my friends, that displays my own ignorance. I plead guilty. But what kind of ignorance am I guilty of?

Professional-Ignorance

Just as knowledge can and might well be considered to have a wide variety of types, so too does ignorance. The top of this list, up in the rarified climes of professional expertise, is the increasing ignorance of scientists in the face of an increasing deluge of scientific information (publications) and data resources. Even those in tiny specialties have seen the content load of new science double every few years. Some decades ago when I was a graduate student at Penn, I shared a house with three medical students. After their required specialty rotations each of them decided that pathology might be the only real occupation for their future. “We actually know so little about the human body,” they lamented, “It might be safer to study them after they’re dead.” Let me call this type of ignorance “professional-ignorance.” While scientists do their best to keep up and keep pace with the information load, they are all a little guilty of this. In their defense, they are the folks who face the actual precipice of the unknown–the edge of knowledge; and they are tasked to expand this knowledge envelope for us all. Their work defines the boundary between ignorance and knowability. However, “professional ignorance” is not the ignorance I’m usually reading about in the blogosphere,  even though science-bashing is back in vogue.

Educated-Ignorance

The next type of ignorance we find is what I would call “educated-ignorance.” There are far too few hours in a day or even a year to stay on top of all of the many possible topics of interest to any one individual. If even the experts have a hard time in their own fields, what sort of chance does anybody else have? Educated-ignorance is pretty much my life. I’ve spent several years learning how to learn various subjects, but I’m more or less (sometimes, I hope much less) ignorant about any of these, as I swim the mighty currents of an omnipresent information overload. Educated-ignorance is reflexive enough to understand its shortcomings. It is the knowledge virus of the information age. Fortunately, its victims are also savvy enough in just-in-time learning to turn a temporary lack of understanding into a more robust purview on any one selected topic. The educated-ignorant individual is appropriately suspicious of the entire notion of certainty. For even as she can, with some effort, cure her ignorance of, say, the impact of volcanic dust on jet engines, or the mysteries of credit default swaps, she knows that, in the weeks ahead, her lack of attention to these topics will increase her ignorance of them.  Calling someone who understands educated-ignorance “ignorant” has no real effect. They are prone to agree with you.

Infallible-Ignorance

The remaining realm of ignorance is where its invective is based. It is used mostly by people who have selected a few cherished sources of information (perhaps a radio talk-show host or a famous blog). The insult is directed at everyone who have either chosen other sources of information or who have disagreements with the writer’s sources. The writer is usually certain that the messages his sources have revealed are so evident and so rational that anyone who listened to them would have to agree with them, and so would agree with him. This certainty is the launchpad for any number of claims of ignorance in others. It also reveals a more focused form of ignorance in the writer. As Eric Hoffer noted, “We can be absolutely certain only about things we do not understand.” Let’s call this “infallible-ignorance.” The infallibly ignorant has gathered all of her knowledge eggs into a tiny basket, and defends this with an unbridled ferocity. Here we find the bellowing of the demagogue, and the bluster of the true believer. The infallibly ignorant may have an under-developed skill in researching beyond the sources they trust, and can never understand the depth of their own ignorance.  They can change, of course. Most of us were like this at some point in high-school or college; clinging to the right to bullshit our way through life. Most people do move on, but the infallibly ignorant just dig in.

While there is certainly enough ignorance in the world for each of us to have our share, we can try our best to avoid the folly of infallible-ignorance, and to discover and overcome the limits of our knowledge at least for another day.

Rethinking leadership in an open science world

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I posted a blog on the AGU blog space today.

You can read the whole blog here:

Problematics for science leadership in a data-rich, open-science world

What I conclude is this:

“I would like to propose just two metrics for now:

  1. The sharing of data with full provenance and,
  2. The reuse of these data.

As global open science emerges, data resources will be added to a variety of open repositories, from individual and institutional collections to national and international repositories. These data—big and small—will be generated through ever-more ubiquitous collection methods by a still-growing number of scientists across the globe. Combined, these new resources enable entirely novel synthesis opportunities for new knowledge created from existing data. The network effect, which calculates how the value of networks multiply as they grow, holds true for data. Adding a single new data resource to an open repository multiplies its value for scientists everywhere. When everyone, including Top Chef scientists, share their recipes (their data), the internet opens up lateral learning potentials that can push science to a higher velocity of discovery.

Opening up your data requires a lot more than publishing a PDF of your spreadsheet. Remember, data is the pluperfect participle for the Latin verb do, “to give.” Data are “things that have been given.” The value of this gift is highly dependent on its provenance and the completeness of its description. Producing shareable data also means opening up and sharing workflows, methodologies, and software. Haec omnia in datis sunt: “It’s all in the data.” That includes the reputation of the team that created the data.

Science leadership for a data-rich academy

In the not-too-distant future, when it comes to choosing a scientist to lead your science organization, you might want to pick somebody who has a track record of sharing the data their team spent so much time and care to gather and describe, and whose data are actively used by others to create new knowledge; somebody who has shown integrity in their workflow and a concern not just for their own research but also for the wider science research realm. Using data sharing and reuse as metrics for science prizes, career decisions and leadership positions realigns global science with the promise of its digital future.”

 

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

Satire alert: This is an Onion style parody…

scientist

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: https://www.flickr.com/photos/pazlpazlpazl/5708049245/

Getting a handle on community

Community builds trust

Cite as “Caron, B (2015) Getting a Handle on Community, retrieved [date]   http://dx.doi.org/10.6084/m9.figshare.1439803 .”

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. http://www.informatik.uni-jena.de/~sack/Material/eSociety2007.pdf.

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 http://junana.com/CDP/corpus/index.html.

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.