12 thoughts on “On Groups, Networks and Collectives

  1. I think that these debates about groups, networks and software that supports them are really useful (thanks Stephen Downes for pointing mw to this post). That said, I think your categorisation above is a little mixed. Your definitions of groups and networks seem to be about people and their behaviours whilst the third is a mix of behaviours and software.
    My own view, fwiw, is that there is limited value in trying to categorise software in this way, as human ingenuity means tools are constantly escaping from the categories. Also, such categorisations smack of provider-centric rtaher than user- or learner-centric views (cf debate on PLEs) For example, one of the most significant technologies for people ‘getting together’ online is RSS – where would that fit? Have you looked at Haythornthwaite’s work ? I include some links here http://eduspaces.net/francesbell/weblog/156904.html

  2. I think the main problem in your definitions and model is the lack of “social”. I think there are levels of trust and social connection that happen at each level that are not captured in your terms or model. I agree with the three levels and even looking at the individual-group interaction as a way to identify those levels. In fact, this is an area that I am currently studying myself in terms of learning and writing. I agree with Frances, however. It is not the technology or software per se, but how they are used. Even within the blogging software, for example, some blogs allow for more two way discussion than others (look at Vicki Davis’s blog for example, for a two way discussion). Likewise, social software like myspace was originally set up as a presentation software, but soon users manipulated it to be used as a way to make social connections. I think your table needs a section on emotional or relational depth, and your descriptors should be limited to a description of the attributes of the technology (i.e. allows for two way communication, allows for data-mining, limits user design input, limits outside connections-such as gmail uses invitation to develop its clients).

  3. […] Angeführt zu dieser Frage sind Gedankengänge von Dave Snowden, Steven Downes, Terry Anderson und Scott Wilson die ihm Anlass zu dieser Frage geben. Dave Snowden states: Is a network a community?: “All communities are networks, but not all networks are communities”. The network theme seems to be gaining a fair bit of attention as an expression of interaction different from what occurs in communities. The real question being addressed is one of determining the properties that we’ll ascribe to networks…and the ones we’ll subscribe to communities. Stephen Downes tackled this last year…and Terry Anderson and Scott Wilson are currently grappling with these distinctions. […]

  4. Frances is quite right about collectives being a blend of software and people – it is precisely this cyborg nature that makes them so interesting and different from earlier forms.

    There is no doubt that any decently constructed social software will exhibit characteristics of a deferred system (i.e. the ‘design’ continues after the software developers stop) and most can be bent to many purposes. The mapping of these different modes of The Many to specific software is consequently loose and tractable but, following from what Virginia writes, it is not unreasonable to look at affordances of particular tools to support these different kinds of groupings as well as to see how they are currently used in practice. I think that it is quite useful to have a model that lets us talk about those affordances, rather than muddling through with vague concepts that were suited to an age of CMC but which don’t quite capture the richness of modern social software.

    I agree with the emotional/relational depth idea and we have talked about this elsewhere -there is a continuum that I think may start with focussed teams, followed by groups, networks and collectives through to unconnected publication along which all these systems lie, with ever weaker ties between individuals as we make our way along the chain.

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