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Community Statement

I conceptualize a community as a group of individuals with a shared interest, location, occupation, need, desire, or belief.  Communities function as the simplest unit of measuring relationships between people, and the term “community” can encompass a vast array of different kinds of groups, with varying levels of involvement.  Communities also function as the building-blocks of cultures; communities are where people share and explore ideas that shape a society.   The term “location” must be understood in a non-physical sense as well as a physical sense.  A Facebook group or a forum are as much communities as a town, a school, or a club.

The only strong connection to physically-based communities that I feel is to the student community, particularly at this University.  I’m motivated to participate in the student community partially because I want a degree, but also because I have found that my fellow students frequently have similar interests to mine.  I feel a tangible difference between the campus area and the rest of Eugene in terms of how I am aware of myself.  I have lived in this town my entire life, but I did not really identify as a local until I came to college and starting spending time with people who were not local.  In this way, I identify strongly with Eugene, but less so when I’m with other locals.

Some of the non-physically based communities I am a part of would include Reddit, LiveJournal, YouTube, WordPress, and Facebook.  Reddit is the most exemplary of these, in that identity as a ‘Redditor’ is a frequent topic of discussion on many Reddit boards.  Reddit is a community that is based on an upvote/downvote system in which members are responsible for moderating the mainpage as well as all of the subReddits divided by interest. The number of upvotes a post has minus the number of downvotes is that post’s karma rating.  Individuals Redditor’s karma totals are available on their profiles.

The karma (upvote/downvote) system ensures that members participate in multiple ways.  Redditors can submit links to other sites, photos, videos, music, or text-only questions and stories, as well as vote and comment on any other submission.  This system is the primary factor driving my participation.  When I see a link that ought to be on the mainpage, but doesn’t have enough karma, I’ll upvote it.  When I come across a cool website that I haven’t seen on Reddit, I’ll submit it.  When I read a post by a fellow Redditor in need of advice, I try to respond.  The karma system is a constant reminder that Reddit is only as good as I make it.  It also provides incentive to make better submissions, since better submissions get more karma, and the amount of karma I have is public knowledge to anybody who has my screen name.

Reddit has ties to the the Fail Blog, and individuals Redditors often maintain or work on other sites, but in a general sense, Reddit is separate from other sites.  Digg is the major competitor of Reddit, and Redditors joke about sending all of the ‘annoying people’ to Digg.  If Reddit is mentioned on a third-party site, any Redditors who notice will then post comments implying that Reddit is full of viruses and spam, but that Digg is much better.  The general tone of LiveJournal in regards to Reddit is that Reddit full of liars.  The general tone of Reddit in regards to Livejournal is that LiveJournal is full of teenage girls.  Being a member of both communities, I can see neither of these claims is entirely true, but they function to enforce boundaries between the sites.

Interactions between Reddit and my ‘real life’ do happen on occasion (I once read an eerily familiar story on Reddit and realized it was written by a friend of my brother’s, about a camping trip they took).  There’s an odd allure to the idea of finding Redditors ‘in real life’, but Reddit, like most of the internet, has been somewhat influenced by the Fight Club style rules utilized by Anonymous.  That is, you don’t talk about anything from the internet in real life.  Recently, a Redditor posted asking about how to best make a good impression on new friends.  Another Redditor commented “Whatever you do, don’t let them know you’re from the internet.”

My engagement with online communities like Reddit has changed how I treat web-based interactions when thinking about community arts in a professional sense.  More than other sites, Reddit has impressed on me how strong community bonds can be, even in a large group that spans the continents.  Because I know that kind of connection is possible even without face to face interaction, I place a lot more stock in web participation than some of my peers might.  I still highly value face to face interaction, but I also feel that those interactions are strongly informed by my interactions online.  I have an acute awareness of how effective web-based participation can be in both consciousness-raising and community art, and I am constantly thinking of ways to incorporate the web into any project I do.

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