October 21, 2014 thelabnyc@internetmedialabs.com Real-time. Relevant. Intelligent
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The Meaning of Community


We spend a lot of time talking about and thinking about community here at #TheLabNYC.

Community is a funny word. It used to be used to mean a neighborhood, a town, a city – a geographic area and the people within it, who have a common purpose or connection. They might not have had anything in common other than where they lived – though in times of crisis, that can be more than enough.

It also could mean a group of people with a common interest spread around the state, country or world. The academic community, the jazz community, the Browncoat community (sorry, just watched the Firefly marathon this weekend and am still a bit emotional about it).

And now it means your followers, your fans, your customers, your clients, your audience. Everyone has a community. Social media has eased the barriers to creating communities of interests, which had already broken down with the mass adoption of the Internet and web rings and ICQ and /alt/ discussion groups.

Many of those online communities were confined to the technologically adept. Not everyone had a personal computer; not everyone understood how to navigate to these communities.

But now, everyone and their dog has a blog (no, really, lots of dogs and cats have blogs now), and the people who comment, share or otherwise interact with that site is a community. The people who follow you and talk to you on Twitter are a community. Your Tumblr followers, Facebook friends and subscribers, your Instagram fans – they’re all your community. What they have in common is you.

Community isn’t only online, though. Consider all the other terrific companies based here at #TheLabNYC – VentureBeat, Citelighter, Maker Studios, Triple Lift, to name just a few. They’re our community, the people we see every day, whom we share space and bandwidth with. And Chelsea – our neighborhood in Manhattan – hard hit (though not as hard as many, many other neighborhoods) by Hurricane Sandy last month, with the shops and storefronts where we buy lunch and coffee every day. And Girls in Tech and New York Tech Women – organizations I’m a member of and actively participate in, and have hosted events in our space.

And, finally, New York – the city, the metropolitan region – battered and bruised by Sandy. Having lived on Long Island 27 years ago when Hurricane Gloria hit and in South Florida 20 years ago when Hurricane Andrew hit, I know it’s a long road to recovery for Long Beach, the Rockaways, Staten Island and the Jersey Shore.

Many people are suffering still, and many inhabitants of The Lab were personally affected. Some had no power for a couple of days, some still haven’t gotten it back. Some were evacuated from flood zones, some still haven’t been able to return home. So we come back to the unifying element of a community being place. Funny how it all comes full circle, right?

We were given permission to use the photo that accompanies this post as a result of a few of these types of community. The talented Tamra Walker granted permission to me via her friend, Marilyn Zayfert.

Marilyn, a friend of mine, is a fellow member of the #WomenLead community and lives on Staten Island. She became a lifeline for the community in the days after Sandy hit, tweeting, posting and sharing vital information, even when she herself was without power in her home. She stepped up for her community of Staten Island. I knew that if anyone could help me find the right photo to illustrate this post, one that represented the community that had pulled together, she would. She asked Tamra, who gave me permission to use a photo from her nascent photo essay on Facebook.

Finally, Liva Judic, who works out of #TheLabNYC with Overblog, put together this fantastic list of resources, and we wanted to share it, in the spirit of that greater community. Please help the victims of Sandy, if you are able.

Thank you.

Photo courtesy of Tamra Walker.

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  • wordwhacker

    Wonderful essay.

    • http://amyvernon.net/ AmyVernon

      @wordwhacker Thank you, Linda!

      • http://nickkellet.com/ nickkellet

        @AmyVernon  @wordwhacker  It’s a great question – What is community. Thanks for sharing. It’s so true we use it so freely and so widely. Ultimately community is what you make it. You get back what you give.

        • wordwhacker

          @nickkellet  @AmyVernon I love that Nick. You do give back what you give. Which makes you two very rich.

        • http://amyvernon.net/ AmyVernon

          @nickkellet  @wordwhacker Thank you, Nick! It’s something I’ve learned time and again. I’m fortunate to have both of you in my community. In multiple communities, actually. :)

  • belllindsay

    I was just talking to my husband this morning about this @AmyVernon - it’s so horrible, and I can’t even begin to imagine what these people are going through – in fact, I said to him “Oh my god, if that were me trying to function under these conditions, I would have walked to a hospital and checked myself in because my mind would have *snapped* at least a week ago. Straight. Up. Fabulous piece, and I’ll be sharing it everywhere I can.

    • http://amyvernon.net/ AmyVernon

      @belllindsay Thank you, Lindsay! It’s made me a lot calmer in dealing with my transit issues each morning – having to wait an hour for a train I can squeeze onto isn’t a big deal when I consider I still have power and my home.

      • belllindsay

        @AmyVernon Honestly, right…!? Our complaints are so (generally) pathetic considering. Perspective is a powerful thing.

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