There’s an image, a map of online communities, making the rounds this week, developed by Randall Munroe, whose sweet, romantic, yet inexorably geeky comics at xkcd are a favorite part of my blog-reading routine.
Regular xkcd readers know that Munroe buries little mouseover “easter eggs” in his images. The map one reads, “ I’m waiting for the day when, if you tell someone ‘I’m from the internet’, instead of laughing they just ask ‘oh, what part?”
The plausibility of that scenario, not to mention the size and diversity of the online community world Munroe illustrates, is testament to just how essential the concept of “community” has become to our understanding of the Internet.
Of course, community has been with us from the start. From the first time somebody used a cc: field in an email, people have used the connectivity of the network to initiate and maintain contact with each other.
For a long time, though, fixed ideas about the computer as an information cruncher, and, of course, our human preference for full-bandwidth, face-to-face interaction with other humans, held undue influence over the world of application development.
Interestingly, what’s emerging is that yes, the Internet as information source is powerful and important. But what people find even more compelling is the opportunity to form groups with one another to process that information. We want to talk about and share our photos, and our favorite songs. We want to play games together. We want to discuss the news of the day with people who share our philosophies of life. We want to link up with others in our fields of endeavor.
Those of us who feel passionate about the social constructivist theory of learning sort of can’t help but feel we’re living a dream coming true.
Yeah, I’m from the Internet. I work on an eCampus powered by Q2Learning. I post pictures of my kids over at blogspot. I just recently completed a project honoring a teacher who is retiring from their high school over there, too. I enjoy the social and professional interactions at Brainstorms, and occasionally participate in the joint pondering of Big Questions over at Learning Circuits. I have pages on Facebook and Linked-in which are not very well-maintained, because I don’t get there as often as these other places.
How about you?