Online Communities and the Removal of Distance

I think online communities of practice and even online classes are changing the ways we think about distance. It almost seems, from the perspective of community, that distance no longer exists. Does it matter if I email colleagues who are spread across the globe? Speak with them via Skype whenever and wherever they may be, as long as I get the timezones correct? Has this flattening of our world changed the way we think about people in other cultural contexts, within national identities, and exotic (and not so exotic) locales?

As my work and research begins to more formally be online, do I  have to be concerned with distance at all?

Further to my point here, what does all this mean for where and how communities form and interact? Leigh asked us to consider what online communities are in our FOC08 class, and I have managed to say exactly what they are not–they are not separated by distance.

I started this post before and finished after having a delightful conversation with a colleague in Brazil, Barbara Dieu. We started speaking (via skype text, which is speaking with the fingers) about Second Life and the FOC08 Course, and the next thing I knew is that Bee asked me what interests me and what I want to learn more about. I gushed about Lyotard’s “incredulity toward metanarrative, Mezirow’s transformative learning, Denzin / Lincoln / Guba’s work in qualitative research, Freire, Brookfield, pugs, cities, theories, technology, and Madame Butterfly.

I think that community is in there someplace. Something about openness to ideas and encouragement to grow and learn and become more present. Something about being with others who share a space next to us along the journey, whatever and wherever it may lead.

This conversation would never have happened without the community focus of this course, and how our different interests and experiences helps to inform and realize them. To all this, community adds and supports, and it has an amazing capacity to do all this without regard to distance.

Perhaps communities of practice help realize the Internet’s claim to make the world a smaller place, though one with more individual possibilities?