Thursday, May 24, 2012
Contrary to what the politicians and religious leaders would like us to believe, the world won't be made safer by creating barriers between people.
Things grow in the unlikeliest of places. Outside of St Cuthberts Primary School, Lindisfarne. May 2012.
By golly, Theme Thursday already. Where has the time gone? I would suggest Port Douglas or somewhere where the weather is warmer, the ocean a little kinder and if you really want to quit your job, sleeping under the stars might not be so unpleasant!
Nevertheless, we are not here to talk about time or how much any of us might utterly loathe their employment circumstances at the moment, we are here to talk about something at the very heart of Theme Thursday: COMMUNITY. You see, as Brian has so eloquently reminded us, Theme Thursday is really about more than a theme or single blog post, it really is about COMMUNITY.
It is a varied COMMUNITY, to be sure, and one that covers the entire globe. Unlike earlier manifestations of the form, which were inevitably local and shaped and constrained by innumerable barriers – distance, landscape, history, kinship, language – the online world removes or negates many of these barriers. Do you like a photograph but don’t speak Portuguese? Easy, click on Google Translate, convert “Fantastic photograph, I love the use of colour!” and presto, you’re communicating. Intrigued by life in Stuttgart, but don’t know any Stuttgartians? Visit Tina’s PicStory and you might get an idea of it.
These days then, COMMUNITY is not constrained by mountains, rivers or oceans. One doesn’t have to inherit through the bland chance of birth or fate their COMMUNITY, for there exists greater scope to expand one’s horizons far beyond the immediate physical neighbourhood.
Obviously, this can be an amazing and liberating experience, especially for someone who spent many hours of their childhood dreamily browsing though atlases and encyclopaedias, imagining just how life in Nsukka, Nuuk or North Platte was lived, what the people ate for breakfast, what they did on their weekends, did they wear shorts there, or do they prefer trousers?
Nowadays, there are COMMUNITies out there that allow me to find these things out, to not just pop in and view someone or somewhere else’s life, I can also communicate with them. I can ask them what they eat for breakfast. I can see if they wear shorts. I can interact in real time if I want to. I can find and join an existing COMMUNITY or I can create a new one from scratch. The entire World is indeed my oyster (provided I have the bandwidth).
---[Darken screen and insert ominous music here]---
It is not all sweetness and light though. There is a risk that in the rush to embrace new and (geographically) remote COMMUNITies in an online environment, we can neglect our immediate and local COMMUNITY: the people around us, who live with us, work with us and play with us (and I certainly hope that you’re leaving your computer screen for a good play at least some of the time).
To my mind, the best exemplars of these new COMMUNITies are the ones that bring me a real sense of the person and place, another someone and somewhere that tells me about themselves and (hopefully) tells me something about myself, and vice versa.
Dina can take me through Yom Kippur in Jerusalem or how ANZAC Day is celebrated in Israel.
I can see Carola’s journey through Dortmund Hauptbahnhof on her way to work or hear about the trip to the hairdresser's in the depths of the Amazon.
Petrea has shared breakfast in Pasadena and a glimpse into the world of doggy day care.
Communicative action in practice!
So, for the COMMUNITY to work, I have to bring something and not just take. You have to bring something and not just take. It can’t just be a one-way street or a one-sided exercise. I suspect that a little bit of this has happened to Theme Thursday.
The world is out there people. Your World, our World. Let's share it.