Rethinking the term ‘community’

Community is a key component of my PhD thesis, which essentially looks at the impact of a community media project based in Trinidad and Tobago. In my own research I make references to various ideas of communities such as “imagined communities” (See the works of Burns (1994) Anderson (1983), Carey (1989), Cohen (1985). I also refer to Rennie’s (2011), Possi’s (2003) and Downing’s (2001) contribution to the discussions in my literature review, where they talk in one way or the other about various facets of community such as a localism, politics, professional, nostalgic, provision of homogeneity for minority groups, subordinated social classes. While some theorists perceive community as a value characteristic, others approach community as one that describes a place, interest or form of communion (Fraser and Estrada, 2000, p.76; Wilmott, 1986; Lee and Newby, 1983; and Crow and Allan, 1995).

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All of these views are important because they allow for me think of community more broadly, i.e. within and outside the context of community media. However, based on the literature I reviewed debates on the term community have not necessarily painted a clearer picture of community media. Some concerns emerge regarding one’s awareness of the community’s shared characteristics, and the failure to consider the transient nature of said cohesive factors in some ideas on community. In my view, there remains a lack of a clarity on the concept of community. However, Patel (1998) claims that this search for a clear definition of community attaches unconstructive labels within societies and people should not be restricted to these labels or identity as people are exposed to countless influencing factors. Although I can understand Patel’s point this lack of clarity in the conceptualisation of “community” contributes to the blurred nature associated with terms such as community media

For my own impact case study on the Shoot to Live project in Trinidad and Tobago it is interesting to use some of the concepts proposed by scholars in analysing the theme community. These views would make for a stimulating about the Shoot to Live findings in exploring what kind of communities exist and whether or not communities take one shape or if they are an amalgamation of various discussions. The more significant outcome of this study would be to discover whether or not new ideas on community will be grounded in the data collected.

After analysing my data for my qualitative research the term community is illustrated as a geographical location, with shared attributes and the ability to connect individuals through cultural and social values remains relevant even in a technologically-driven era. In examining the practice of community in this study I also discovered that the formation of a community is not always intentional; diversity still exists within communities; and that numerous community fractions exist. The community media project I assessed established a newly-formed, temporary, and positive community. Despite the short-term nature of this project the contributions made by this temporary type community appears to be significant and impactful to some extent. Though there is a concern about temporary-type projects, I learnt that the focus should be on maximising the contributions of these transitory communities. Meanwhile, collaboration among existing communities can aid in the post project activities.

However, I would like to explore this notion of community a bit further and I believe that attending the #MeCCSA2016 conference next year is critical to rethinking the term community within this context because the MeCCSA conference theme this year is “community.” I will keep you posted on the progression of my thoughts on this subject matter.

Here are some related blogs and links: Reflecting on the MeCCSA Conference 2016| Sustaining Community Journalism ActivitiesBirmingham Center for Media and Cultural StudiesBirmingham City University| Arts Design & Media PGRStudio