Thursday, March 09, 2006

Whanaungatanga and Turangawaewae

The importance of community and the knowledge it produces is absolutely one of the most important vehicles for the common people as the world we once were anchored in begins to disintegrate. As information becomes more and more valued in this dawning new age, we must adapt new strategies and form supportive communities. Two defining principles of community are the whanaungatanga (our relationships within the communal family), and the turangawaewae (our home base or place to make a stand).

As the people within our virtual communities continue to grow due to their increased interest in knowledge, it's appropriate to see how desired knowledge is aquired. Aquiring knowledge is a process of education, which can be driven by a formal curriculum, or my favorite, driven only by interaction and dialogue. The curriculum has basically been the only choice when it came to studying related information which pertained to a particular focus of knowledge, and it remains as a very good resource for learning. But the proliferation of the internet and the growth of online communities has brought us a new kind of knowledge-mining. We now gain information and knowledge through interactions between community contributors who discuss and share ideas, facts, and feelings concerning areas of interest.

With the emmergence of the internet, the people's thirst for the truth has become a primary objective. We have been misled and misinformed for so long by so few, that we now at times even question ourselves and our idea of what truth really is, or at least I do. We witness the truths we once thought to be etched in stone, become merely well rehearsed propaganda tactics designed to get a certain response from the masses in order to maintain a prescribed social order. The interaction of the people has brought about amazing strides in debunking the propaganda while giving us the capability to discern between ourselves what is actually the truth. Our virtual communities have allowed us to become educators and students at the same time. The communities have given us the opportunity and the desire to think for ourselves once again instead of being spoon-fed whatever the power mongers offer on their knowledge menus. We have been given back our right to think and decide for ourselves. What a wonderful gift for mankind! The ability to contemplate truths and reflect on what their affect will be on us, and then decide on appropriate actions through reasonable discussions. An Aristotelian dream come true!

Communication within our communities and mining knowledge out of these personal interactions can be complicated. Knowledge isn't a given thing but rather it is more of a process which is accomplished through interaction and discussion by each of us who bring into the arena our very own views and pre-judgments. As Hans-Georg Gadamer calls it, our own "horizon of understanding".

If as Gadamer suggests, our consciousness is shaped our history and culture, and considering that our understanding of our history and our culture has been shaped by propaganda delivered through our formal educational systems, the mining of knowledge can be challenging. How to discern fact from fiction, reality from belief? An ongoing process of active engagement among community members is necessary for us to become knowledgable.

How we utilize this power of knowledge is entirely up to the community's desires, interests, and concerns. The community itself aquires value as it's knowledge base grows. This is very important given the unstoppable flow of information and increased value associated with knowledge. The Information Age has overtaken us and the community and the importance it plays within this new age must not be overlooked or underestimated. A community can have many elements of power, such as solidarity, commitment, mutuality, and trust. And the learning/teaching experience provided by community and it's member's interrelationships are where the real power of the future lies.

It's important to understand the nature of the communities that we are discussing. We are not talking about geographic communities or homogenous groups that coalesce around a specific issue. Our virtual communities may be comprised of many groups brought together through a shared interest. It can be said that they are communities of interest.

I think there is a difference between being a member of a community and actually belonging to a group. To belong requires contribution and interaction between the other contributors. It is an on-going process within a community as members gain confidence in their own personal worth and in turn enhance and strengthen the entire community through their contributions. Therefore it is important that the right enviroment be created for people to interact. There must be intellectual stimulation as well as the sharing of real life experiences within the community to create the type of enviroment which promotes and encourages people to speak up and participate.

This is essential to becoming knowledgable.

Communities are similar to batteries; the more contributors a community has, the more electricity and power the community has. So creating the ideal enviroment that allows people to feel safe to voice their ideas and opinions is absolutely necessary. Communities are becoming home to millions of common people as they find security, acceptance, and respect. In these nurturing enviroments we have an awakening of activism and solidarity and within these powerful enviroments, knowledge and community grow simultaneously. As the waves of information continue to grow, it is very important and innevitable that the individualistic lifestyle our people have developed during the industrialization and cosummerization of society, gives way to a commonality with others who realize the power to survive will come from solid communities and not the individual. This is no small step for any of us who have become alienated from social interaction our entire lives by mass propaganda. According to Burkitt...

not only do people in the Western world feel separated from others with whom they live and who make up their society, they also feel divided within themselves, riven between the selves they present in relations with others and the individuals they feel themselves to be deep down inside. The armour that protects and separates us from others appears also to drive a deep wedge between our feelings and our ability to express them in public.

Therefore, it's up to the community to remove the wedge that has been driven between us throughout our lives. It requires a huge step of faith for an individual to drop their shields and expose their inner feelings and vulnerabilities to the world. This is where the importance of the right communal enviroment comes into play. An enviroment where common people can make a stand and be assured they are supported and empowered by their communities.

Originally published on Uncharted
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