Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Communities of practice: from fishermen guilds to the global village

Miguel Cornejo Castro has written an article called Revisiting Communities of practice, from fishermen guilds to the global village. He attempts to revisit the basic concepts of communities of practice with the goal of updating it, to ease the fitting in of contemporary communities (specifically refering to online communities of practice).

Going online changes the breed of communities by virtue of the following changes:
- Shrinking cost of communication
- Rise of information longevity
- Universal access
- Differentiation and competition in the global village

He describes various changes which are characteristic for (large) online communities of people who find each other via the internet.

I agree with the described changes, on the other hand, I don't think it is either/or. I think he describes a particular kind of community, which works for people who are fast working online and know what they are looking for (and probably works best for explicit knowledge). I think there will still also be other types of CoPs (smaller, localised, closed). So I'd disagree with tagging one type of CoP as 'traditional' and the other as 'modern'. And of course there will be a hybrid model, of communities of practice using both face-to-face and online media (open or closed will make for a large difference). What will be the difference in influencing the practices of a community of practice?

It's a good question whether the basic theory of socially-constructed learning is useful for the changes brought about by the internet and web2.0 'thinking', which comes with imported trust, more openess and faster exchange and networking. Is it still useful to talk about CoPs or are the dynamics so different that the theory looses its explanatory and predictory value?


David Gibbens said...
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David Gibbens said...

You're absolutely right. That's where I've got to - exploring the "theory" of CoPs against the current use of the terminology as applied to, and in, comprac etc. "Communities of Practitioners" are NOT "Communities of Practice". The terminology has become debased I feel.

I'm gathering my thoughts.....