“It was just another night with the sun set and the moon rise not so far behind. To give us just enough light to lay down underneath the stars. Listen to papa’s translations of the stories across the sky. We drew our own constellations.” -Jack Johnson
Upon reading Chapter 5 and Coda 1 of Etienne Wenger’s “Communities of Practice,” I am finally able to say the readings are making sense and I can answer a lot of the questions that I had previously about communities of practice.
Wenger introduces Constellations of Practice. These constellations are groupings of objects, in this case individual communities of practice. One of the questions I have had up to this point was: Wouldn’t there be many communities of practice and each community of practice would have smaller communities of practice within it? The answer is that there are many communities of practice that make up not a bigger community of practice, but rather, a constellation of practice. These constellations of practice are not considered communities of practice because they overlook the “multiplicity and disconnectedness of the perspectives involved” (Wenger 1998).
A second question that I have had for a long time was: Can computers be considered members of a community of practice because they are able to interact with other members of a community (i.e. search engines)? The answer is that computers are NOT considered members of a community because computers lack an understanding of meaning. They cannot mutually engage with other members because they lack an understanding of meaning, they cannot understand the community’s enterprise because of the same lack of meaning, and they cannot negotiate the repertoire also because of this lack of meaning.
The third question I have had throughout this entire process has also been cleared up. With the development of online COPs and member’s splitting their identities, isn’t there a lack of member engagement in their real lives? Yes, Wenger explains that the “scope of engagement is not so much expanding as it is a series of trade-offs between forms of complexity” (1998). So, as we enter into more and more online communities, our engagement with our original community (family) is not as complex as it once was. I am interested to see what the implications are in terms of social interaction in the next 50 years.
Bringing this back to Constellations and the Jack Johnson song I quoted at the beginning of this post, we are involved in many different communities of practice. All of these communities of practice can be combined to form our own individual constellation of practice. We ARE drawing our own constellations (of practice).