Personal Honours Project - Summer Research

Over the summer, we had been asked to prepare project proposal sheets for several ideas that we would like to pursue for our project. One of the topics I had considered was the creation of communities and what exactly a '21st century community' is. 

I decided to begin by mind-mapping the question "What is a 21st century community?" and this helped me put my initial thoughts on paper:

Reflecting on what I had discovered, I decided to further define what a 21st century community is.

A 21st century community is...

  • digital and can be accessed from a variety of platforms
  • created through common interests
  • bringing people together to reach a common goal
  • primarily global, with people coming together from all corners of the globe
  • providing a platform to discuss a variety of topics

This led me to one of my first initial ideas for this project:

A platform to create communities surrounding various topics in a way that allows users to have a discussion about the topic and present information as they see fit. 

From the insights I gained through mind mapping, I decided for my platform that I would put a key emphasis on sharing information, anonymity, down-vote system, temporary communities and local or global communities. These however would be subject to change as the idea developed but the ideas of temporary communities and the sharing information was certainly something that I had a strong interest in.

Building on the area of sharing knowledge, I discovered a book called Cultivating Communities of Practise by E. Wenger, Richard McDermontt and William M. Snyder. In their book, the three authors discuss what a community of practise is and how to apply them to further your own business. While the business aspect was not totally relevant, the ideas and values of a community of practise gave me a lot to think about.

What is a Community of Practise:

  • groups of people who share a concern, a set of problems or a passion about a topic and who deepen their knowledge and expertise in this area by interacting on an on-going basis
  • whatever way they gain knowledge, they become (informally) bound by the value that they find in learning together.
  • helps develop a unique perspective on the topic as well as accumulate a body of knowledge
  • first knowledge-based social structure

The book also touches on the role community design plays when establishing these types of communities - the goal of community design is to bring out the communities' own internal direction, character and energy. When designing for these communities, there are seven principles that should be followed:

  1. Design for evolution
  2. Open a dialogue between inside and outside perspectives
  3. Invite different levels of participation
  4. Develops both public and private community spaces
  5. Focus on value
  6. Combine familiarity and excitement
  7. Create a rhythm for the community 

This research allowed to complete my first draft of my project proposal that I would take back to my tutorial on the first week back.