I’ve been thinking about the question I posed the other day, What do communities do? Not being a sociologist, I don’t believe that I can answer that question. I would expect that this would vary widely across contexts. But one function that I would expect all communities must perform is communication. I can even see an argument that communication is necessary for a community, otherwise how could anything communal even come to exist? I’m less certain that creation is necessary for a community; communities tend to produce artifacts, but is it necessary that they do so? (Of course, how could that question ever be answered? Thinking like an archaeologist, if some community in the past did not produce any artifacts, how would we ever know they existed?)
So back to my thinking about blogs vs. wikis: blogs enable a necessary function of communities, while wikis enable a maybe optional function. This notion of blogs as communication-enablers made me think of the “unending conversation” from Kenneth Burke’s The Philosophy of Literary Form: Studies in Symbolic Action:
Imagine that you enter a parlor. You come late. When you arrive, others have long preceded you, and they are engaged in a heated discussion, a discussion too heated for them to pause and tell you exactly what it is about. In fact, the discussion had already begun long before any of them got there, so that no one present is qualified to retrace for you all the steps that had gone before. You listen for a while, until you decide that you have caught the tenor of the argument; then you put in your oar. Someone answers; you answer him; another comes to your defense; another aligns himself against you, to either the embarrassment or gratification of your opponent, depending upon the quality of your ally’s assistance. However, the discussion is interminable. The hour grows late, you must depart. And you do depart, with the discussion still vigorously in progress.
Is the Burkean Parlor a good metaphor for the blogosphere?