Nov 23 2006

Ambiguity ok, according to some

Lilia Efimova and Nancy White were talking about some of the ideas in our technology for communities project and Lilia comments on how “community” seems like a problematic term to some people because it’s ambiguous – it gets used in many different ways and at different scales.

I like the argument that King and Frost make that ambiguity has many uses in practice and that dis-ambiguation is a bit over-rated (John Leslie King and Robert L. Frost, “Managing Distance over Time: The Evolution of Technologies of Dis/Ambiguation” in Hinds, Pamela J. and Sara Kiesler (eds), Distributed Work (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2002), pp. 3-26. One important thing that communities do is manage ambiguity. I think that managing the nuances and ambiguities involved in a term like “community” is an important thing to do. When a community uses a term to point to something ambiguous it’s often a flag for one of those “it depends” conversations. Among other things, looking for familiar but ambiguous characteristics of something like “community” in the “blogosphere,” for example, is a useful thing to do.

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