“Community is the smallest unit of health. To speak of the health of an isolated indiviudal is a contradiction in terms,” said Wendell Berry in his speech Health is Membership. I live in a wonderful neighborhood in West Seattle, and am surrounded by a network of people who over time have forged a real community in an urban environment–almost unknown these days. Lucky me!
I have another community that helps me navigate a vast and expanding universe of knowledge and experience. When I first started working at amazon.com a bunch of years ago, it seemed like what was back then somewhat disparagingly referred to as that “world wide web” thing, we all used to wonder at the palpable buzz that was growing by the second as peope discovered this expanding digital universe.
Some people would wonder that I could compare the neighborhood I live in physically with the neighborhood I live in digitally, but they really feel like equal parts myself. Like in my mind, I’m having conversations with Susan and Tom next door about what’s going on with our 90 year old neighbor Cliff, as well as conversations with X number of people thru wikipedia about wiki use in a corporate setting–both the same in my mind, both vibrant and alive. Shared knowledge and experience.
The level of information out there is simply mind-boggling and I feel a similar buzz from those early days at amazon. What is truly interesting at this point is how that information is shifting, restructuring, creating nodes, shifting again and rearranging itself continually. In the midst of all this change, patterns emerge and those patterns reflect this connected community as it grows and evolves and continually finds its new networks.
Are we isolated with our computers and our virtual networks. I don’t think so.
This is the silly part: at the end of the day when I leave my desk, I almost want to wave goodbye (alright, yes, I’ve done this but only once! I swear!) to my open screens. I know, I know–that’s too weird and yet I’ve spent time with this palpable and vibrant digital community and somehow want to make the connection physical like I do after visiting with a neighbor. Ours is a fluid universe of virtually and physically networked communities–an expanding mass of shared knowledge and experience.