Today, March 20th, 2008 marks the five year anniversary of the start of the Iraq war. We’ve been told what’s going on IN Iraq, but what about the people who fled to other countries for asylum and have now become refugees? What about their familes? Their careers?
Christian Payne traveled to Jordan to photograph and interview Iraqi refugees. Bill Cammack edited his photos and narration into this video, “Iraqi Refugees: Life in the Shadows”.
Around 4 minutes 30 seconds, Cathy mentions “community”. By the smiles on the participants’ faces and the fellowship, you can tell that they are all part of a community. What made this post finally possible for me is that while they became a community because of Seesmic, they weren’t interacting via Seesmic. They were IRL, having dinner together, chatting and having a good time. Somehow, what I wanted to talk about clicked after Cathy’s speech and seeing ‘community’ exist in a totally different environment.
There’s a difference between Community and Territory.
The word ‘community’ is often used to indicate ‘territory’… Like they might have a housing project named “Chicago Community”. In fact, those houses are territory. What makes them a community is how people interact with each other WITHIN that territory. You can live near someone and have NOTHING to do with them, not even to say hello as you pass in the street. You can live far from someone and talk to them every day and spend a lot of time with them, virtually on the net or by other means.
Having this feeling of community can easily give one the feeling of dominion over a territory. This is a false feeling, with no standing or merit… UNLESS members of said community are ACTUALLY owners of the territory, appointed agents of those owners, or members of the community that are willing to stand up and accept leadership of that group, lay down laws and enforce them. When there’s nobody in charge, there ARE no rules definable by the community. There are rules definable by THE OWNERS OF THE TERRITORY, which must be followed by all inhabitants of the territory, whether they’re a part of the community or not.
Thus, as popular as *A* community might be, without authority, anything they say regarding the territory is a SUGGESTION, not a MANDATE. It carries ZERO weight, except amongst the people of THAT particular community who are willing to follow the lead of whomever stood up and decided to make a rule… such as “How people SHOULD use this site” “What’s good etiquette on this site” “What new people need to know about this site” “How long posts should be on this site” “How you have to act after you post to this site”…. etc etc etc. It’s all hogwash and trivial banter to anyone that doesn’t subscribe to the community in which this so-called leader has chosen to lay down some laws.
Now… You ask “But, what if there’s only ONE community? Doesn’t that mean community=territory?”
Even if there’s only one group of people in a territory that calls themselves a community, or in some cases, THE community (like THE HIP HOP VIOLINIST :/), without connection to or authority from the owners of the territory, they have ZERO say in what happens to that territory. Do they have say over their community? Absolutely. Community exists in the ‘heart’ and mind. Inside or outside of the territory, the community thrives as long as there are still people that believe in that community. Dominion over one’s community FEELS LIKE dominion over the territory that community’s sitting on when there’s nobody else there. 😀
When nobody else has access to become a member of the territory, there’s no turnover. It’s like having the air conditioning circulate air inside your house without bringing in fresh air from the outside. It’s cold, and it feels good, but it’s only representative of a tiny subset of the actual air available inside your house and outside. As soon as others are given access to the territory, strictly by definition, “the” community will shrink drastically in the percentage of the territory in which it can hold court.
As soon as you double the number of currently active participants, assuming that “the” community doesn’t welcome and absorb these new people “into the fold” and assuming everyone contributes an equal amount of posts, the visibility of “the” community is AT LEAST split in half, and they now occupy 50% of the territory. So now, there are at least TWO communities, even if they’re “the originals” and “the newjacks”. Even if the new territory members don’t form a formal community, they’re meeting each other and making connections and having conversations and adding each other to their friends lists and following and replying to their contacts’ posts. Depending on frequency of posting and replying to popular newjack threads, looking at the front page of a site, the presence of the original community (which, of course, was dominion by default, being that nobody else was there) won’t be seen as any stronger or relevant than the new territory members. As a matter of fact, “the originals” will be completely indistinguishable from “the newjacks”. This is only when you merely DOUBLE the number of active participants…..
The ‘solution’ to this is to enjoy COMMUNITY without feeling ENTITLEMENT. If you have constructive comments for people joining the territory that your community has occupied by default up until now, that’s great! 😀 If you have rules and laws and crabby things to say, “Save it for David”. What you have to say is meaningless without authority. The laws will be handed down by the owners & appointed rulers. In most cases, those are found in the ToS (Terms of Service). There’s no point in trying to defend a territory that you never owned in the first place. There’s no point in trying to maintain “market share” when eventually, ten times the number of people in your community will be “outsiders” occupying the same territory.
What you DO HAVE is YOUR COMMUNITY. You have your friends that you’ve made and socialized with and had good times with. You have the relationships you’ve fostered and the feeling of goodwill that flows between your community members. Nurture that and Enjoy It. 😀
Initially, this post was going to be called “Thanks for the Thanks”, because I definitely appreciate Christian’s authenticity and heartfelt statements. 😀 “Cheers for that”, as they say over there in the U.K. 😀
However, that’s really a private communication between Christian and myself that happened to be expressed on a public medium (both his video and my text, above). What I think would be more useful to my 40 readers, according to Technorati (minus however-many registered search engines :p) is to talk about the process of creation, in this case, dealing with video, and the difference that it makes when you’re actually emotionally invested in what you’re doing. Also, I wanted to give Christian some more background on how we ended up working together.
In November, 2006, Dan collected music pieces from Phil and other members and made a “mash-up” with video footage I sent him of New York City nightlife:
I say “sort of” aware of Phil because at that time, social media wasn’t advanced enough for people to get to know more about each other than what they typed on a page or a picture or video they posted. At this point, we not only have the technology to do our own video shows, like Phil’s “The Gravity”, but there are more and more live services popping up… Ustream, BlogTV, Yahoo! Live, LiveVideo, new services all the time, where we get to see a lot more about people than we used to.
So anyway, I got to know Phil Campbell as a quality guy who STAYS on top of the game when it comes to social media and is simply a treasure trove of good ideas. 😀
Next in order, Andrew Lipson gave me an invite to this (at the time, invite-only) video-messaging application called Seesmic while I was an audience member of the Jeff Pulver Show. I checked it out, but it really wasn’t my type of conversation going on between the beta-testers, so I just watched Seesmic like a television show instead of participating in the watercooleresque banter.
There were a couple of people there with strong personalities and methods to their madness. The most animated and volatile of them was this character named “Documentally”. 😀 Most people, once you’ve seen four videos of them, you know their range… or at least the range they’re willing to bring to the world-stage which is Seesmic or any other site where you post videos that people can watch from NYC to Zimbabwe. With Documentally, you never really know what was going to happen in one of his videos. He might say something intelligent and serious. He might say something batty and off the wall. He might say nothing at all. He might roll his truck and videotape the situation as if he’s the first reporter on the scene! 😀 It was clear from the “Documentally” character that Christian Payne had A LOT of range to his personality, and there was a lot of entertainment value in his videos.
So being a morning person, I tend to chat with the European folks (who are 5/6 hours ahead of us) before the Americans wake up. I’m chatting with Phil Campbell and he mentions that his friend Christian had a project he was working on. I let Phil know I was aware of Documentally and was willing to chat with him about the project. In skypeing with Christian, I got to meet the “hang out at the pub” version instead of the “Seesmic character” version. He’s a nice guy, and as he put it in the video, he’s “someone I’d like to call a friend”. 🙂
I really meant to talk about the actual project, but I’ll do that some other time. This ended up being a post about connections. One of the benefits of social media is that people get to learn about each other at their own pace and according to their own level of interest. Another benefit is that we have checks and balances inside our “echo chamber”. For example, Dina Kaplan and I have 102 “Facebook Friends” in common! :O … Even if you spit that into 50 friends and 50 acquaintances, that means there are *50* people that I can contact right this second and ask them a question about Dina. I’d probably get 15 responses back, and they’d all be approximately the same, because that’s how Dina carries herself. She’s consistent.
Through social media, and also by meeting in person @ Adam Quirk‘s event named Vloggercue in Brooklyn, I developed an impression of Phil Campbell as a stand-up guy and a good judge of character. For Phil to bring up Christian’s project to me, I’m automatically *infinitely* more inclined to hear more about it. Yes, it helped A LOT that Christian already had a strong social media presence. Yes, it helped A LOT that the photos he shot for the project are rich and full of emotion, intimacy and meaning. However, the *main* thing is connection… passing it on. Social media offers us the opportunity to get to know each other, asynchronously… and then follow up to find out how the real person matches up to his or her online persona.