Monday, August 7, 2017

Does Community Mean The Same Thing In The 21st-century?

Hello Everyone:

Welcome to a fresh week on the blog.  Yours truly hopes you all had a lovely weekend and ready for the week.  Today we are going to look at how the meaning of community changed in the 21st-century. Megan Garber writes in her CityLab article, "What Does 'Community' Mean?," "For much of the 20th century, if you asked someone to define 'community' they'd very likely give you an answer that involved a physical location."  The concept of community is generally derived from a one's place, literally one's place within the greater world.  In the millennium, the social media has upended the conventional definition of community.  In the present day, the basic conception of community implies "...something a once farther from and more intimate from one's home: one's identity."  The Oxford English Dictionary sums up the word, A body of people or things viewed collectively.  Thus, the concept of community in the 21st-century is less something that you fit into and more something you choose to be part of.  The choice you make is predicated on a shared sense of interests, circumstances, and affiliations.  Think about all the social media sites you click onto.  Blogger is most definitely part of this new definition of community.  The new definition of community have become a more active concept, rather than a passive.  Let us take a look at this phenomena.

According to Bill Bishop, the author of the book The Big Sort: Why the Clustering of Like-Minded American Is Tearing Us Apart (; date accessed Aug. 7, 2017), this shift in semantics is more descriptive of the greater metamorphis of American life.  It describes the rise of the individuals as the driver of cultural; the decline of institutional power.  Mr. Bishop told an audience at the annual Aspen Ideas Festival, co-sponsored by the Aspen Institute and The Atlantic,

It used to be that people were born as part of a community, and had to find their place as individuals.  Now people are born as individuals, and have to their community.

The explosion of the social media has laid bare the changes within the facets of American culture, politics, and other institutions.  Mr. Bishop observed, " today commonly conceived less as a semi-sacrificial commitment-forsaking all others-and more as a means to deeper personal fulfillment."  Journalism, usually presented in the second or third person, now is presented in the first person, either explicitly or implicitly, comes across as more trustyworthy than institutional.  In the business realm, the readiness to break the rules (i.e. "radical creativity") is prized over the ability to fit in.

Bill Bishop noted,

I'm not saying any of these are or bad...It's just a switch is perhaps most obvious in electoral politics.

Something Mr. Bishop posits has become 

...less about issues now than it is about asserting one's identity.

You could also make the case that the reverse is true: "...the issues are entirely about identity and vice versa."  What is apparent, is that the concept of "identity"-the word rapidly increased in usage in the second half of the 20th century- is changing our perception of "community." (; date accessed Aug. 7, 2017)

The response to changing communication techonologies, according to Mr. Bishop, is the key mechanism for this shift.  If you look closely at the communities on Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, et cetera, what you will notice is the emphasis on "...identity through a combination of consumption and perperfromance: On Facebook, for example, one's favorite music and favorite's news sites and the memes and jokes one shares suggest, in the aggregate, not just what they like, but who they are."  That has Blogger wondering what her shares and likes suggest about who she is.  Regardless, the SMS, as an information sharing platform, take on the gate keeping role once played by mainstream media.  Friends, fans, and followers override anonymous organizations.  Familiarity takes precedence over expertise.  This may explain why it seems that the very institutions and people we once trusted are now under attack.  Megan Garber opines, "The digital world has both allowed for and ratified a culture of extreme individualism."  With regards to information, Mr. Bishop succinctly summed it up, I get to decide what's true or not.

What does this mean for the United States, "as a collection not just of individuals, but also of communities?"  Alain Ehrenberg, in his book The Weariness of the Self (; date accessed Aug. 7, 2017), explains this sense of foreboding.  Mr. Ehrenberg observes how "psychologically exhausting it can be to be so constantly self-reliant."  Bill Bishop notes, we're not capable of doing that kind of self-construction every day.  Mr. Ehrenberg argues that "...identity construction,...,is at the root of things like depression, drug use, and even suicide."  Stated in this manner, "'identity' as a concept might, paradoxically, prove a challenge to American individuals."

There is some hope amid all this gloom-"identity is also politically empowering.  'Community,' in the transcendent sense of the word, is empowering."  Bill Bishop argues that "The culture of individualism..may bring Bowling Alone-style (; date accessed Aug. 7, 2017) sacrifices of social capital in physical communities; it can also bring with it, however, a different kind of social capital: one in which the individual person, rather than group, is primary."  This new concept of community is closer to what the Founding Fathers envisioned for the United States: "a people who were united not just by mutable circumstance, but also by shared values-is realized."  The Oxford English Dictionary notes that the word "community" is rooted in the Middle French communite.  Originally, the word may have come to mean a body of people who live in the same place, however, it meant something more simple and powerful, joint ownership. 

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