Greg suggested the following discussion of community and social software: Link: Anne Galloway | Purse Lip Square Jaw. In this excerpt, Galloway glosses the following quote from Alphonso Lingis
"Trust laughs at danger and leaps into the unknown."
Again, what makes this interesting is how much it differs from the idea that we form community along lines of similar or shared efforts. Instead, these kinds of community and trust revel in the unpredictable, the unexpected, the unknown, the irreconcilable. Their value is in what they teach us about things falling apart, about encountering and negotiating difference, about existence as difference and repetition, where repetition implies multiplication rather than preservation, about change. In these communities the sensual life prevails--and it is gloriously risky and difficult to control.
By defining community as something that requires we already know each other (by either one or six degrees of separation) and that we share interests, efforts or goals in common, and by committing these assumptions to architecture and code, we effectively deny people using these applications the ability to find community and trust in 'others,' and ultimately discourage people from changing, or becoming 'other' themselves. In this scenario, the radical promise of connection and cooperation between different people is undermined by conservative notions of connecting and cooperating only with people like us or, in some twisted expression of personal freedom, only with the people we choose.
I won't comment on the software element (although I think that hyperlinks go far in enabling different sorts of connections). What is intriguing is the emphasis on the irreconciliable and surprising. Trust, it seems, is the supposition for taking a risk, for becoming other. When others betray that trust, when they are censorious, say, or punishing, then they have broken with community. So, lack of community is then the imposed norm or order, that which prevents freedom or possibility. Community (as Galloway suggests citing Nancy) involves 'abandonment and exposure' rather than protection, security, and nurturing.
I think this is interesting, but I have questions. Aren't there differences between voluntary and involuntary exposure? Or, between types of abandonment? And, isn't there something too easy about simply reversing the terms of humanism so that the absence of a norm rather than its presence marks community? Most of us are born already into norms. To have a name and to speak is to come under sets of norms and expectations. These will necessarily carry with them their own excesses and supplements. How is community as risk and exposure different from finding oneself lost in a city, poor and alone?