In this section, 43 Things will be analyzed according to a number of definitions of community that were discussed in JOMC 191.3. The primary question we seek to answer in this section, is whether or not 43 Things or any of its parts could be considered a community; if so, in what way?
In class on September 1, 2005; we discussed Ferdinand Toennies concepts of Gemeinschaft and Gesellschaft. Gemeinschaft translates into community and Gesellschaft into society. Under this distinction, community is when members of a group feel stronger loyalties to the group than to their personal interests. This usually involves having a shared set of beliefs and social customs. Community under this definition consists primarily of strong ties (Granovetter, 1973). Contrary to this, society is a group where an individual's personal interests supercede those of the group. Consequently, relationships in society are more likely to be weak ties based on utilitarian concerns such as information sharing or trade.
Given these definitions, what is 43 Things? As a whole, it could clearly be considered a society. It consists of individuals working on personal goals. Interactions are largely designed so that individuals can help others complete their goals and get help from others in completing their own goals. While there are shared goals, users are completing them separately from one another in the real world. Essentially it is an ego-centric society.
Is 43 Things in any way a community under this definition? Can the larger society foster smaller communities within? If it has so far, it has been limited. However, there are signs that such a community could grow. Some goals are more conducive to bonding and, as users continue to use the site and know each other better, communities could certainly form. Some goals like write a book have large, relatively active communities.
The fourth is that reciprocal sharing of information and other forms of social and material capitol is an important value. The fifth is that there are shared customs and conventions of interaction. These last two characteristics are harder to analyze. As mentioned in the section on sociability, the FAQ and statement of purpose both promote helping others as a value in itself. Certainly this value has been adopted by some members of the community, but it does not appear to have been adopted as a norm for 43 Things as a whole. However, it is quite possible that it has been adopted by a critical mass of users pursuing certain goals. It is also important to remember, from the background section, that 43 Things is just shy of a year old and that it had a massive growth spurt over the last few months. Because the majority of users have only been members for a short time, many of them might not yet have had time to adopt the values of the veteran members. For this reason, it will be interesting to look back at 43 Things in a years time to see how it has grown.JULIE/JULIA / CONCLUSION
In Blogs as Virtual Communities: Identifying a Sense of Community in the Julie/Julia Project, a number of concepts of virtual community are discussed. Sustainability is proposed as a key attribute of community. Many members of 43 Things have been active for much of the sites life. This is a sign that sustainability at the macro level is possible. However the temporary nature of most goals means that users will move from one to another frequently. Consequently, it will be hard to sustain a community unless users remain active in a goal following their completion of it. This is certainly built into the functionality and the policy of the site; so it can occur if the value is established by a critical mass of users.
That members will have a "sense of community" is another definition of community. This consists of users having "feelings of belonging", "feelings of influence", "feelings of support" and "feelings of a shared history". It is this reviewer's opinion that a feeling of community does not yet exist in 43 Things. However, if it does, it is only for a few specific goals. This is a stricter definition of community than some, thus setting the standard to aim for.