Urban communities

Looking again at my learning contract and theory of community to make changes on it. So now I’m reading Delanty’s e-book ‘Community‘ Chapter 3 on urban communities. (thank technology and the internet for electronic resources!)

In it, Delanty refers to the sociology of Georg Simmel, who established the foundations of urban sociology by emphasizing the significance of small groups (Delanty, 2009: 39). He talks about the notion of the city as a platform for new group formations, which arose from the idea of the city as an open structure where various social relations, forms of belonging and human creativity are built and enhanced. Simmel’s perspective of conflict is that it is not necessarily harmful to integration; rather, conflict can be the basis for integration, leading towards stronger identities within groups, as well as the affiliation of various affiliations that is not dependent on common values (Delanty, 2009: 39).

Moreover, one of the dominant themes in urban community is the defence of the community as a result of external threats (Delanty, 2009: 41). Barry Wellman argues that community are relatively small groups based on mutual interdependence and common forms of life, whose foundation is a sense of belonging based on shared experiences, a common language, kinship ties, and a sense of inhabiting a common spatial lifeworld (Delanty, 2009: 41).

In addition, Delanty talks about how social movements can give rise to new expressions of community (Delanty, 2009: 48). From participating in social movements, individuals can discover common interests, from which collective identities can emergy. He refers to Manuel Castells, who argues that urban social movements are processes of purposeful social mobilization. According to Castells, urban social movements have three main goals:

  1. urban demands on living conditions and collective consumption,
  2. the affirmation of local cultural identity, and
  3. the conquest of local political economy and citizen participation

(Castells, 1996, cited in Delanty, 2009: 48)

These goals can be combined in different ways to create a societal impact. The importance, however, lies in the meaning that is produced by the existence of the movement rather than its explicit achievement, for the community. Here, meaning emerges from the conflicts of interests of the different groups in resistance of the biased interests of capitalism, statism and fundamentalism (Delanty, 2009: 48).

All these ideas are, I think, very relevant to the community that I will be discussing in my documentary – the SLAM community which emerged from the independent music community in Melbourne, as a reponse to the new liqour licensing laws that were threatening the sustainability of music venues, which are important as well as sentimental to them as ‘homes’ for performing their music (e.g. The Tote).

Hmm.. ok. Going to finally edit my learning contract now!

Delanty, Gerard (2009) Community (2nd ed.) Taylor-Francis e-library. (link from RMIT e-resources)


The future of FB

Very recently, FB has made some changes that has further limited users’ control over their information. Read articles about it here. In a nutshell, users can no longer hide their name, profile picture, networks, friends list, current city, and pages that they are “fans” of (now, they’ve changed it to “like”). This also includes user activities, like liking, commenting, adding a friend, writing on walls, etc. You still have options to adjust the visibility on the profile page, but funnily, all the FB pages we’re connected to are public (for the benefit of advertisers and data miners…?)

After reading danah boyd’s article “Friendster lost steam. Is MySpace just a fad?“, it could seem that FB might be walking dangerously close to being shunned by its users… but I think that users, like myself, are so dependent on it to connect to our friends that privacy settings would not bother people. But in some of boyd’s other essays, such as “Living and learning with social media” and “how youth find privacy in interstitial pages“, she points out that for youths, privacy is more about control of space, of information, and of trust. She was talking about it in terms of youths’ privacy at home (parental surveillance) and online (technology to assert privacy)… but in a way it can be related to online privacy right now, and how online privacy is dead, but as long as users feel that they have control over their information, they wouldn’t really care much if the privacy settings are being altered. After all, most users go online to, in a way, publicize themselves and make themselves known. These are the people who wouldn’t care too much about privacy settings. But for other users who go online to connect, and are concerned with who gets to see their information, they need to be more aware of privacy changes.

On a more interesting note, Facebook is also expanding on social media fads (there were live Twitter updates, and social gaming) to community pages. Their concept of fan pages will be applied to concepts, places, activities and ideas, rather than just brands. It aims to be “the best collection of shared knowledge” on topics and will source content from Wikipedia, and FB users can contribute to it as well (from The Facebook blog). It will be really, really interesting to see what changes go on in the next year.

And even MORE interestingly, FB is launching a new set of tools that can bring the FB social experience to any website! In short, web publishers can add a plug-in on their website, and let visitors ‘like’ their content (stories, photos…) and these will add on to their FB profiles. And apparently, then, all webpages can look like an FB page.

With FB already having so many interactions (chat, mail, media sharing, profiles, and in the future, community, and open web interactions), what will Facebook become? It will no longer be a SNS, but some morphed up super-interactive social networking platform that will be, basically, EVERYWHERE! Soon, it will dominate the web…. and well, I’m just wondering what will become of it. Will it displace other SNSs like Myspace? How will its users react to all these new developments? And how will we define FB in the future?

Related articles:

Why Facebook’s new profile changes matter

Facebook data and privacy: So much has changed in two years

Facebook further reduces your control over personal information

Facebookipedia? Here comes ‘Community pages’

Facebook shows off new tools to socialize the entire web

More related articles from googlesearch

Committing social suicide….on the web

Have you heard of suicidemachine.org? The Web2.0 suicide machine (W2SM) was launched in late December 2009, and uses a program that methodically deletes all user info from social networking sites. All you have to do is go to their homepage, and “commit”, which involves

The suicidemachine homepage encourages users to “liberate” themselves from SNSs:

Tired of your Social Network?

Liberate your newbie friends with a Web2.0 suicide! This machine lets you delete all your energy sucking social-networking profiles, kill your fake virtual friends, and completely do away with your Web2.0 alterego. The machine is just a metaphor for the website which moddr_ is hosting; the belly of the beast where the web2.0 suicide scripts are maintained. Our service currently runs with Facebook, Myspace, Twitter and LinkedIn! Commit NOW!

It targets Facebook, Myspace, LinkedIn and Twitter, and even has a “memorial page” to ‘commemorate’ social network suiciders.

Earlier this year, Facebook blocked the site’s program, stating that it’s a violation of FB’s TOS. Read more here. But regardless of that, W2SM believes that what they’re doing is not unethical, as people should have the right to delete their online profiles and data whenever they want. From W2SM’s FAQ:

FAQ: Why do we think the web2.0 suicide machine is not unethical?

Everyone should have the right to disconnect. Seamless connectivity and rich social experience offered by web2.0 companies are the very antithesis of human freedom. Users are entraped in a high resolution panoptic prison without walls, accessible from anywhere in the world. We do have an healthy amount of paranoia to think that everyone should have the right to quit her 2.0-ified life by the help of automatized machines. Facebook and Co. are going to hold all your informations and pictures on their servers forever! We still hope that by removing your contact details and friend connections one-by-one, your data is being cached out from their backup servers. This can happen after days, weeks, months or even years. So merely deactivating the account is just not enough!

Another site offering a similar service is Delete Your Account, which emerged soon after W2SM. The site offers detailed information and direct links for users to delete their accounts from all of the major social networking, blogging, shopping, etc. sites and services across the web.

Is this a trend? I think one of the issues that bugs users is online privacy, which has been an issue for a long time now, particularly with FB, which keeps all your online data, e.g. pictures, even after you deactivate/delete your account. It seems like for many of us, it will be impossible to ‘disappear’ from the web completely, and it’s difficult keeping track of what happens to our personal info once we put them on the web. It’s so public, so open, and unless you read the TOS before signing on to SNSs, you won’t know that most of the info you publish online, such as on FB, becomes their property. This simply means that all your pictures, the things you say in your profile, everything, basically becomes FB property and they can do whatever they want with it and you can’t do anything about it. From FB’s Privacy Policy:

Deactivating or deleting your account. If you want to stop using your account you may deactivate it or delete it. When you deactivate an account, no user will be able to see it, but it will not be deleted. We save your profile information (friends, photos, interests, etc.) in case you later decide to reactivate your account….

Limitations on removal. Even after you remove information from your profile or delete your account, copies of that information may remain viewable elsewhere to the extent it has been shared with others, it was otherwise distributed pursuant to your privacy settings, or it was copied or stored by other users….Additionally, we may retain certain information to prevent identity theft and other misconduct even if deletion has been requested.

Be careful the next time you decide to post something up… especially when you’re using third-party applications.. you don’t know what information they get off you and what they’ll do with it.\

Related articles:

How to disappear from Facebook and Twitter

Web 2.0 Suicide Machine Offs Your Online Identity

A virtual community of cheating spouses?

I found this quite interesting – a virtual community of cheaters on an online dating service for married people wanting to have an affair. It started in the US and already has more than 5million members. It’s been around since 2001 but this is the first time I’ve ever heard of it! – Watch the video on theage.com.au. The website’s ashleymadison.com and all its members are anonymous. Its tagline is “Life is short, have an affair” and the online dating service boasts an “Ashley Madison(R) Affair Guarantee” of 100%.

This LA Times op-ed says “though its mission can be perceived as very wrong (for the record: cheating is bad!), the fact that it claims 3.2 million members suggests that it’s also doing something right.” More from the opinion piece:

“Some people say it promotes promiscuity,” he [Biderman, the dating site’s founder] said. “But if you don’t do it, you get behavior that’s way more harmful to society. Infidelity has been around a lot longer than Ashley Madison.”

And who would sign up for such a dating site?? The op-ed goes on:

By tracking information provided on user profiles, Biderman has been able to learn quite a bit about his clients, even if he doesn’t know their real names. Seventy percent are men, he says; among those who are “active” members (sign-up is free but you must purchase credits to interact with others), the male-to-female ratio is 1-1. The majority of the men, who tend to be in their late 30s to early 40s, are married. The women, who skew a bit younger, fall into three categories: the suburban housewife “who is seeking validation of her desirability”; the “quintessential mistress” who is not interested in a family life but wants things like trips and dinners out; and women who’ve been married only a short time and suddenly wonder what they got themselves into.

I think this ties in pretty well with Jenny’s week 4 lecture on problems with community in modernity…

It is sort of an “anomie” whereby it is an “erosion, diminution or absence of personal norms, standards or values, and increased states of psychological normlessness or eroded norms” (Weight, 2009).

It seems like it’s also a form of delinquency…where there’s a breakdown of communal institutions (marriages) and communal relationships among people, according to the social disorganization theory (Weight, 2009)

And there’s a bit of deviance as well, I think, because infidelity can be considered as an informal violation of social norms… and in this way, then, can I say that its members are socializing into a “lower class culture” because they violate certain norms? And if, like I – and I think most people – assume, infidelity is a ‘secret’ norm, are members of AshleyMadison actually delinquents who are “conformists within a larger subcultural setting”, like Jensen (2003, p.15 cited in Weight, 2009) suggests? Well, the anonymity of the website’s members would certainly make it easier for people to be deviant.

So is infidelity a norm in communities? I may be wrong…but I assume that it is a norm, just that it’s not ‘out there’ and exposed, and well, most people would not admit to cheating on their spouses anyway. This may be unreliable, but most statistics online say that at least 60% of men and 40% of women have an extramarital affair in their lifetimes (e.g. articles 1, 2, 3, 4infidelity statistics)

What do you think about this online dating website? Check it out yourself here… I personally think it’s outrageous… but I guess anything is possible now on the internet…

SLAM as a New Social Movement

Looked over my readings again, and found a suitable theory for this community.

Craig Calhoun, in Delanty’s (2003) article, talked about traditional community and how they form an important basis for collective mobilization (pp. 41-2), which I think can be aptly represented by the Melbourne independent music community, and in particular by the SLAM supporters.

“Communities provide a social organizational foundation for mobilization, as networks of kinship, friendship, shared crafts, or recreations offer lines of communication and allegiance’

(Calhoun, 1983, p. 897 cited in Delanty, 2003, p. 42).

To fully understand Calhoun’s concept of community, I’d have to look at the original article from Calhoun’s 1983 book, but someone else borrowed it from the library before I could… so I’d have to wait till that person returns it!

But for now, I got a hold of one of his articles “Postmodernism as Psuedohistory: Continuities in the Complexities of Social Action” from Agency and Structure: Reorienting Social Theory (ed. Piotr Sztompka, 1994, pp. 167 – 196). In it, he talks about New Social Movements (NSMs) and how its production need to be seen as a continuous feature of modernity, not a sign of postmodernity (p. 189). But without going into his argument on postmodernism, I wanted to include an excerpt from his article, where he listed out key features to distinguish NSMs (pp. 180-1):

  1. These movements focus on identity, autonomy and self-realization rather than material benefits, resources and instrumental goals…in this sense,…these movements….stay largely within the realm of civil society rather than addressing themselves primarily to state or economic actors.
  2. Mobilization for the NSMs is as much defensive as offensive…
  3. Membership cuts across class lines because socioeconomic categories are losing their salience…
  4. Organisational forms are themselves work objects of movements, which aim to be nonhierarchical with direct democracy as an ideal.
  5. Membership is generally only part-time, with potential multiple and overlapping commitments.
  6. Activities are generally outside the official legislative system and often use unconventional means.
  7. In the NSMs, an attempt is made to politicize aspects of everyday life formerly outside of the political.
  8. Finally there is less tendency toward unification under some larger umbrella form or still less a master narrative of collective progress…

He gives some examples of NSMs, including women’s movements, ecological movements, youth movements, peace movements, and other struggles for legitimation of personal identity or lifestyle such as gay/lesbian movements, animal rights movements, anti-abortion and pro-choice movements (p. 181). But he also mentions that there are other sorts of mobilizations that are part of class struggles, such as struggles to defend a community’s occupations, though these may be more unidimensional as compared to NSMs (p. 181).

I think in some ways, the SLAM Rally is characteristic of a social movement. Comparing the SLAM movement to the eight points brought up by Calhoun:

  1. SLAM is autonomous. In a way, they intend to be self-governing by reacting to LLV’s new laws by rejecting it, protesting against it, in order to protect something that has been imperative to their survival as musicians – their music venues – which are being affected negatively by the new laws. In a sense, then, they’re protecting their livelihood and their identities (which would be at stake otherwise).
  2. SLAM was built up as a defense against the LLV laws.
  3. SLAM members consist of musicians and music lovers in support of protecting music venues. They are definitely not dependent on class lines.
  4. The community does not seem to be hierarchical. They are in a way representative of a democracy, representing themselves, the ‘people’, and are themselves the ‘movement’ and participants of the rally which took part on the 23rd of February, 2010.
  5. Members definitely have other commitments, and are not dedicated to the movement full-time. They are musicians, music lovers, and supporters who just joined in for the cause.
  6. Activities are outside the legislative system, and they used unconventional means. This seems totally applicable, and I consider the SLAM rally as unconventional because it wasn’t just a rally or a protest. They used social media (Facebook, Twitter, MySpace) and word-of-mouth to spread the word and “collect” supporters to join the rally before the actual date. They are currently still using social media to gain supporters, they sent a petition to Parliament (on the 7th of April 2010 – though they are still collecting signatures due to popular demand), and there are a multitude of blogs and new support groups that have spun from the SLAM rally alone.
  7. The live music scene was formerly non-political… but since the authorities (LLV) introduced the new laws, it has made the survival of the music scene politically dependent. If the laws don’t change, more music venues will be at risk of closing down.
  8. In my opinion, there is less tendency towards SLAM unifying with other groups under some larger umbrella form because I feel that SLAM is itself already a big movement, and if anything, other new ‘movements’ have spun off them, such as ‘Music Doesn’t Make You Violent’ and ‘Save The Tote’ (see ‘related links’ at the sidebar for the links)

In this sense, then, SLAM is really a community, mobilized for action, and the rally was in fact a new social movement. Unfortunately the article in this particular book didn’t talk about community, so I’d really have to wait for his 1983 book to be returned before I can read about his explanation of community.

But for the documentary part now, I will need to think of appropriate and strategic questions to ask!!!

Issues to think about

Now doing background research on issues facing the Melbourne independent music scene. I’ve been looking at articles from the news, looking at the history and reading about overall perceptions on the music scene in Melbourne, and generally talking to friends who are independent musicians to gain some perspective of the music scene in Melbourne.

The live music scene in Melbourne is world-renown and is what makes Melbourne unique from the other famous cities in Australia. There’s an abundance of venues in and around Melbourne that host gigs frequently, many of them supporting new and inexperienced independent musicians, which I think is rather important as some of the musicians I know have mentioned that landing the first gig is always the hardest. Some have also mentioned issues such as getting support from local audiences, getting exposure (for newcomers), and landing decent gigs, but I think these issues would apply to a smaller number of people from the community, especially newcomers. Furthermore, I’d have to think twice about focusing on one of these issues as these are the issues facing the people I’ve talked to, which may not represent the whole music community here in Melbourne, and hence doing my documentary on these issues might be unsuitable.

However, I think the majority of the independent music community, and not just the people I’ve talked to so far, would agree that one of the major issues affecting them at the moment would be the problem going on with music venues and the new liquor licensing laws. Some were talking about the Tote closing down, and how that has driven a lot of local musicians to protest against the law. The Tote has been a huge part of the independent music community in terms of providing the venue for hundreds of gigs.

The Age recently wrote an article on how Victoria’s new liquor licensing laws are threatening Melbourne’s live music scene. According to the article, many small music venues have closed down because they cannot afford to continue operating due to the new licensing laws. There’s even a SLAM (Save Live Australian Music) rally going on in protest of the new laws. This is definitely a huge deal in the community right now, and would fit perfectly as a form of external conflict in the documentary.

I guess I know what I’ll be doing my documentary on at the moment, but my plan now will have to include interviewing more people from the scene, especially the people who are actively protesting against the ban. I think this wouldn’t be too hard, though, as I can easily talk to representatives from SLAM and find out more.

One of the only other problem is that this topic might be outdated by the time I start working on the documentary itself, that is if the government doesn’t do anything about the protest and the music community stops being active. But then again, this is highly unlikely considering how this will continue affecting the community unless the law changes. It would be great, though, if the government were to take the SLAM protest seriously and decide to amend the law so that it would be fair to smaller businesses. If so, perhaps my documentary could include the timeline of events happening…. that is, if the changes to the licensing law takes place while I’m making the documentary.

And now, to start planning further and think of answers to all the questions in the learning contract!!!!

A focus?

It’s easy to think about what communities are, but funnily enough, I’m finding it hard to think about what communities I belong to that I can specifically do a documentary about. What’s more, I need it to be interesting and engaging, and it needs to have some form of conflict in it. It would be harder to think about conflicts occuring in communities that I myself don’t belong to, but I guess I will have to resort to that if I can’t think of anything. Or maybe my brain is just too tired from all the assignments and readings that I have been doing in the past week :(

So far, I can think of some communities such as:

  • international students
  • Malaysians in Melbourne
  • blogging community
  • journalist community

For the first two communities, I can’t think of any conflicts that might be worth documenting on.

But for the journalist community, I was thinking about an internal conflict between citizen journalists and professional journalists. If you haven’t heard of the term before, it can be explained by the following paragraph (from Wikipedia):

Citizen journalism (also known as “public”, “participatory”, “democratic”[1] or “street journalism”[2]) is the concept of members of the public “playing an active role in the process of collecting, reporting, analyzing and disseminating news and information,” according to the seminal 2003 report We Media: How Audiences are Shaping the Future of News and Information.[3] Authors Bowman and Willis say: “The intent of this participation is to provide independent, reliable, accurate, wide-ranging and relevant information that a democracy requires.”

Since the emergence of the blogosphere, audiences have started taking news into their own hands. Some argue that citizen journalism does not depict real news, while others argue that citizen journalism adds some objectivity to issues that may be biased in mainstream news (due to media conglomeration, government policies, etc.)

Citizen journalists may be activists within the communities they write about. This has drawn some criticism from traditional media institutions such as The New York Times, which have accused proponents of public journalism of abandoning the traditional goal of ‘objectivity’. Many traditional journalists view citizen journalism with some skepticism, believing that only trained journalists can understand the exactitude and ethics involved in reporting news.

I’m wondering now if this issue would be applicable to the assignment. I’m guessing I can use ‘citizen journalists’ as a community, and talk about the ‘external conflict’ being pressure from professional journalists and also news readers regarding the credibility of news written by citizen journalists.

I read an article on c.net regarding this issue. The writer talks about insiders vs. outsiders, and as blogs being merely a tool for citizen journalists. Citizen journalists have perspective, and they engage actively with their audience and source their information from mainstream news media (mainstream news media, too, often refer back to citizen journalists to portray a more ‘objective’ stance on issues).

I also read up an article on the conflict amongst journalists who, when covering news on violence, encounter a conflict in interest:

Covering violent conflict, when the journalist is a member of one of the parties in conflict, invokes a special inner-professional contradiction. In fact, journalists are members of two communities simultaneously: the professional community and the national one. On the one hand, the professional community calls upon the journalist to tell a story that will be, or will have the appearance of, a factual, objective and balanced story…. On the other hand, the national community calls the journalist to take part in the conflict, to be its representative in the battle of images and sound bites, to be a weapon – to tell only the facts that are in favor of his nation, to tell an unbalanced, unobjective story…. The article explores how in such events, journalists, as an “interpretive community”, as representatives of the grief and confusion of their national community, turn to the patriotic point of view.

Somehow, I think I’m making things more complicated for myself. I’m not in this community myself, and have too little sources to interview for this documentary, should I choose to go along with it. Furthermore, I’m not too sure if what I’ve addressed above constitutes a conflict at all…. I only thought about it because I’ve studied this issue in my previous course, and it would be an interesting and engaging documentary if I put enough thought into it.

I will have to think about this some more…. and soon!!!