Playing around with delicious (I started using my inbox- by adding people and key words -that's fun!) I found a very interesting interview with Etienne Wenger , discussing identity and situated learning. The webcasting system is great because you can choose to see just parts of the interview if you like.
"In this interview Wenger outlines (in clip 1) the constitutive and fundamental assumptions of social learning theory, he explains (clip 2) how the theory can be applied in organisations, how (clip 3) the industrial model of knowledge is being challenged and revisited by the assumption the learning is happening all the time, (clip 4) that learning is not only situated in physical situations but is culturally and experientially situated in ourselves, (clip 5) how practitioners share and develop competence and knowledge together in practiced communities, (clip 6) that there is a deep relationship between individual identity and the participation in communities in the social world, and (clip 7) how a whole new language or public discourse of learning is mostly welcome."
My favorite is number 5 where he talks about examples of CoPs and the case of the Aid Workers Network, a virtual comunity of practice. He states that it's not important if CoPs meet face-to-face or virtually, the question is: "can practitioners engage with eachother in a way that allows them to bring their practice to bear in a conversation". This helps me to think about my suspicion around virtual communities of practice: my fear is that by bringing practice to bear just by conversations, there is room for crucial distortions from actual practice and the way people talk about their practice. Or important 'tacit' elements might go missing. So, nothing like working jointly in actual practice. (but I realize that it would matter what you practice entails; if it is a practice where interpersonal skills don't matter it might be easier).