It seems we are all part of a number of ‘Communities of Practice’ (CoP) (Etienne Wenger) determined by :
- Our interests.
- The people we discuss those interests with (both physically and virtually).
- The things we do.
Some of these CoP’s are quite formalised or restricted, for example the Magicians circle, a secretive members only club of Illusionists who share tricks of the trade, others are more open for example, mumsnet, an online forum for people with children to share experiences, opinions and child raising techniques.
The more deeply involved in these CoP’s we become the more central our position, our opinions may become more respected (Or expected) with in the group.
Individuals, newer, less experienced, further from the centre or on the fringes of the CoP may seek guidance or expertise from the centre and may eventually move closer in as their experience and respect grows.
As we expand our interests and activities we may pass through or add many CoP’s to our roster.
Outside of professional spheres, some CoP’s may be quite abstract. For example almost without exception we could all be said to belong to local chapters of a global CoP sharing experience about the human condition. If you cook at home you probably share recipes and kitchen tips with friends and colleagues. Coupled with books, magazines, tv and internet cookery media we are all part of a CoP engaged in the practice of creating better food.
I’ve identified a number of quite ‘formal’ CoP’s I am engaged with (some of them have names!), lets see how these look…
- Drawing party – a group of illustrators, graphic designers, typographists, graffiti artists, ‘amateur graphics enthusiasts’ and not so enthusiasts drawing together, sometimes on the same surfaces, sometimes in formalised games (like consequences – the head, body, legs game) and some times seperately (on similar or independent themes). The members are drawn from education networks and casual aquaintence (local and otherwise). A common interest in mark making techniques and ideas which might inform them give the group its domain of interest and practice.
- Random Artists – Individuals working in the field of multimedia arts installation, events management and promotion. A common interest in reclaimed space (industrial, residential and commercial), temporary autonomous zones (Hakim Bey), social politics, freedom of expression, the future, organic / synthetic relationships open access and multimedia gives the group its domain of interest. A core of individuals formed the CoP at the turn of the century and over time new members have joined and grown to inform the practices undertaken as well as benefiting from the support and knowledge of established participants. By engaging and supporting during planning, production and events practitioners become more central to the CoP while older less active members take a back seat if the they don’t have the time to engage as fully, although they still inform the process. (www.randomatrtists.org)
- Ill FM – Broadcasters, producers, musicians, sound system and recording engineers , archivists and audience members. Involved in the internet radio station Ill Fm in one way or another. Individuals share experience, knowledge and practice in their related fields
- 2+2 – A Poker forum. (Separate to ‘live associates’ I discuss the game with).
- Learning Technology Support – AV technology installation, operation and maintenance, trouble shooting, the provision of support for students and staff, creation of learning materials and integration of technology into pedagogic situations.
- APP LTAD – Learning and teaching, reflection and pedagogic intervention. Active within a blogging sphere and 3 physical meetings…. what will the future hold.
With all these CoP’s the central figures are the establishing members, the longest serving, the most proficient and indispensable figures. Engagement and discourse are important for someone who is on the fringes and becoming more central. The more long lived communities have seen practitioners come and go and the centres of expertise shift over time.
One question that has arisen is the relationship students have with the CoP’s that they are skirting on the edge of when they undertake further development of their disciplines. At university level they are already part way of that journey to the centre having initiated their craft and their relationship with that CoP at school or before…. how can we better point them inward to the CoP’s relevant to their interest / practice?
CoP gives a tag to social / practice related groups that have existed right back to the dawn of interactivity and communication between creatures, certainly since civilisations foundations.
Feel free to respond to any of these bits and pieces that take your interest, it’s more of an ‘ideas’ wall approach than anything more directed or cohesive….
Oh and merry Christmas all…