Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Defining Community

I got into an interesting debate this morning with one of my more colourful Twitter correspondents. I stated that I considered myself part of a certain community. He at first interpreted this to mean that I was saying I lived there and pointed out to me (and the rest of Twitter) that I actually live in a different neighbourhood. I clarified that I am indeed part of this community even though I do not happen to reside there. I work there, in a leadership position of a community-based, non-profit organization. I am involved in community events. I am a member of the community league. I spend more time there than I do where I actually live. For these reasons, I consider McCauley to be my community.

This afternoon, I brought up this conversation with a friend of mine who is in the process of studying for her Masters in Library Science. She mentioned that this exact topic was discussed in one of her classes - the question of what exactly defines community. She said the outcome of that discussion was the conclusion that community is actually quite fluid. We can be a part of one or many communities depending on our life circumstances. We can consider our neighbourhoods, work, ethnic groups, and social activities to be communities in which we are involved.

I completely agree. I am a member of one community by virtue of the fact I live there. I am part of another because of my work and passion for the area. As an organizer and participant, I am part of the activist community. Through my activity on Twitter and attendance at several in-person meetups, I am part of Edmonton's Twitter community. My work as a writer and editor makes me part of that professional community. Even though I am not as active as I could be, I am part of a faith community.

Community defines who we are. We, in turn, define and identify the communities of which we are a part. Incidently, I am writing this blog post from my desk in my office in Little Italy. My co-worker, who is also with the McCauley Community League, has arrived and now I am talking to her about this issue. "We have adopted Paula. She *is* a member of this community," she says with a smile.

I love being a member of different communities. I hope I can make a positive impact in all of them. And I look forward to becoming parts of other communities as my life unfolds.

1 comment:

Christopher Spencer said...

In justifying the closure of so many schools last night, Trustee Don Fleming said (paraphrased from Twitter), "We must stop thinking of neighbourhood as community." I'm old-fashioned, I guess: my identity is Christopher Spencer from Grovenor, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. Geography matters to me. By the late 20th century, we had lost much of our sense of place, but perhaps we've discovered that individualism, to such an extent, is not sustainable. We yearn for connections -- which is why social media has become so prolific so quickly, and why I think we are going to have a renewed interest in turning neighbourhoods back into communities.