Are all communities organization and all organizations communities?
The term 'organization' is often used interchangeably with 'community'. This implies that the formation of a community is in some ways organized or structured. If one thinks of the community as an organization, it leads one immediately to look for the structure or the force that is organizing the community. Furthermore one can look for motives and intentions of a community, treating a community as though it were one large individual or an aggregate of individuals.
|Communities ||Organizations |
| Communities are not necessarily informed by a predetermined end. ||Organizations are formed with a particular goal in mind |
|A community is largely unstructured ||The structure of an organization is explicit |
| The members of a community do not always display a minimum commonality other than that they belong to the community ||The members of an organization are part of it because of their common identity outside of the organization as well |
| A community cannot function as the aggregate or sum of all its member ||The organization can be understood as comprising of the desires, motives and intentions of all its members. |
Leaving aside the community one is born into (where there is no choice) all other communities that one is a part of as more of less chosen. Why does one choose to be part of a community? What goal is fulfilled by being a member of the community? Once that is arrived at, can that be attributed as the 'motive' or aim of that community? For example a person joins a trade union or a lobby to improve his working conditions. The purpose of the union is thus an enhancement of the working conditions of the worker. The community can thus be identified as one fulfilling this purpose. Communities of this nature are instrumental and can be called 'organizations'. They have a marked and identified end and a completion, or dissolution of that end would probably result in the end of the community.
What about other communities?
It is difficult to explicate in a similar manner most other communities that one is a part of. For example the community of friends. It may be explained as is often done that one is part of a community of friends because one likes talking to them, enjoys meeting them. It is here that a crucial question for online communities could be posed: would one stop being part of the community of friends if one were unable to talk to them or meet them, for a considerable length of time? More explicitly, are the bonds of a community identifiable?
The bonds and/or intentions of a community need to be identified for it to be replicated in the cyber world. The existence of online communities, however, does not indicate that the blueprint of a community is understood. How then are we to understand online communities?
Most online communities are designed and constructed with a specific goal in mind. Often this goal is to replicate the real world. Since it cannot do so in entirety the online communities abstract a particular aspect of real communities and try to replicate it.
In the forthcoming series of articles on online communities K-Praxis will undertake the analysis of online communities.