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July 27, 2015

Posted by Abi Sutherland at 05:46 PM * 139 comments

He said, “Kid, whadja get?”
I said, “I didn’t get nothing, I had to pay $50 and pick up the garbage.”
He said, “What were you arrested for, kid?”
And I said, “Littering.”
And they all moved away from me on the bench there, with the hairy eyeball and all kinds of mean nasty things, till I said, “And creating a nuisance.”
Then they all came back, shook my hand, and we had a great time…
—Arlo Guthrie, “Alice’s Restaurant”

Every work morning, I cycle onto the Buiksloterwegveer, the ferry that runs straight across the IJ from Amsterdam Noord to Centraal Station. Getting to it is a story in itself, an epic in miniature: the long straight ride toward the boat, usually into the teeth of the wind; the suspense in the way the signs block the countdown so that one can’t see how long it is till departure. The pilots often wait a minute or so past zero, picking a break in the incoming cycle traffic, delaying for a hurrying foot passenger or two. I always feel lucky when I’m one of the last to reach the deck before the red lights flash and the siren signals that boarding is over.

Then it comes, as the heavy clunk of the ramp coming up echoes through the vessel. All around me the people glance at one another, quickly, furtively, one flick of the eyes and away. And I taste the koinopoiēsis in the air, like the first rain after a hot week.

“Koinopoiēsis” is part of my idiolect. It’s a combination of two Greek words, κοινόν (koinon, community) and ποίησις (poiēsis, making). It refers to both the moment when a crowd becomes a community and the processes which create that transformation.

The ferry crossing takes about two minutes. We’re a mayfly of a community, and we know it. Our koinopoiēsis is so faint as to be unnoticeable unless you’re sensitive. Unless you’re addicted. It’s like the ghost of sweetness one gets from the nectar of a violet: enough to whet the appetite, but not enough to satisfy it.

We dock at Centraal. The alarm whoops, the front gate goes down, and I leave our ephemeral community for the murmuration of Amsterdam cyclists.

But that’s fine, because at the other end of my ride is the office, where I am swimming in community: the two teams I work with, the team I line manage, my department, my former teams, the loose communities of expats from the various countries I have allegiances to, the foreigners who speak Dutch, emergency responders, the complex network of long-term employees who move about the company… The Venn diagram of my workplace communities looks like a puddle in a heavy rainstorm.

And these groups are forever recreating themselves. There’s something called the Tuckman model, which lists a number of stages a new team goes through: Forming, Storming, Norming, and Performing. (The naming is terribly twee, but I find the model useful as a way to reassure teams that the initial conflict they experience is normal and not permanent.) But the model goes on to point out that whenever a team gains or loses a member, there’s a Mourning stage, and then the whole cycle repeats, because it’s effectively a new team. This is true and necessary on every level of community: nal komerex, khesterex.

So even when I don’t find myself in a new team (as I did a month ago), I am surrounded by the low murmur of social and organizational change, and with that change, little increments of community formation. If the ferry was a single droplet of koinopoiēsis, the office is a slow, wide river of it.

One of my roles is to tend that river the way our waterschappen tend our physical waterways. Sometimes it’s easy: a word here, an email there, a private chat over coffee or on a bike ride home. Sometimes it’s a bigger job, which usually means cookies. (I’ve talked about food and community before.) I have the good fortune to work with some gifted koinopoiēsis engineers: kind of a meta-community. We hold baking contests.

Although it wasn’t until I started moderating a long-lived and articulate community that I named this thing and made it a separate concept in my world, I was raised in an environment that values it, celebrates it, tells stories with it. We all were. My defining high-school movie was The Breakfast Club, which is basically an hour and a half of slow-motion koinopoiēsis with a Simple Minds soundtrack. But even if you weren’t a Brat Pack eighties kid, the thing is pervasive: it’s what turned Han into someone who would come back and help Luke destroy the Death star; Mal was looking for its traces before he let Jayne out of the airlock; Maia learns it in The Goblin Emperor; it’s the Scoobies and Leverage, Lethal Weapon and The Matrix, the larger arc of the Avengers movies, The Fellowship of the Ring, Fury Road.


Comments on Koinopoiēsis:
#1 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2015, 06:28 PM:

It's what we do with Worldcons, too.

Sturgeon called it "Slow Sculpture". I'm not sure we need a Greek word for it, but maybe we do. As a community, I'm sure we'll find out.

Whether we name it or not: we do it. Every day. In positive or negative ways.

#2 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2015, 06:56 PM:

Tom @1:

I'm not sure it's quite the same as Slow Sculpture. I'd say that koinopoiēsis is a force that the sculptor may use, the way that plant growth is a force that a bonsai master may use. Communities form and grow whether or not there is a sculptor guiding them.

#3 ::: Benjamin Wolfe ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2015, 07:16 PM:

With something like ten years now in various research labs (and sitting in one now as I type), Koinopoiēsis is absolutely a feature of good labs. You spend way too much time in lab to not value community and seek to build it (c.f. the continual provision of nommable treats, both homemade and storebought, because eating together, even if you're all just raiding the same five pound bag of sour gummy candy, is a really good way to solidify a community).

That brings me to another thought: how does a small community handle new entrants? My example for this is really small on the scale of things - the labs I've been part of have generally numbered no more than a dozen people - but to my mind, there's a give and take. A new entrant, whether permanent or temporary, is always going to feel a little out of place to start - that's just the nature of trying to join an existing community. The strength of a community is how that community welcomes the new entrant - it doesn't need to be effusive, just open. In a lab, the community (hopefully) exists before, and will exist after, and will change, but it should be, collectively, interested in building itself with new members. This requires that new members are willing to give of themselves to the community, in order to be part of it. I think this is particularly critical in research labs, where truly independent research is an impossibility - you can't do science without other people, so it's a good idea to be able to work together at the very least.

I've seen a few different failure modes for koinopoiēsis in laboratories over the years - some much more dangerous than others. Some people just want coworkers, rather than collaborators / community - and that's fine, although it can be very isolating (since research is a very collaborative process at its best). I've also seen new entrants who want to benefit from, but not give to the community, which is toxic but ultimately self-correcting (since the community, in my experience, rejects them). Perhaps the worst version I've seen is for a new-ish entrant to fight against the community, and poison the community against themselves. These last two are related, but fortunately exceedingly rare.

From where I'm sitting (at the desk where I've spent five years in grad school), enabling koinopoiēsis is critical to a good lab. How does one do that? I'm not sure, but common goals, common interests (and, in our case, a willingness to sit in tiny dark rooms and be bored for Science) help. That, and cookies.

#4 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2015, 07:17 PM:

What I loved the most about "firefly" and "guardians of the galaxy" - besides the irreverent humor - was that they were about the importance of community.

#5 ::: Heather Rose Jones ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2015, 07:29 PM:

The opening passage suggests another type of ad hoc community: those in your vicinity who have the context to pick up on cultural references (like Alice's Restaurant) and will fill in all that's left unsaid.

Like so many ad hoc communities, it can unintentionally exclude as well as include. (Yes, that aspect is still preying on my mind, I'm afraid.) I recall hanging out with the boy next door and my older brother, listening to Alice's Restaurant on an LP ... it must have been right around when it first came out, because the boy next door's family moved away soon after that. Eventually I picked up an album that included it for my own listening pleasure. It seemed like everyone I hung out with knew the meaning of quotes like "and they all moved away from me on the bench" or "with circles and arrows and a paragraph on the back" without any more needing to be said. (In the same way that the college crowd I hung out with could quote Monty Python skits at excruciating length.)

And then a few years ago I had a pair of tickets to see Guthrie in concert and my blind date cancelled with no notice, so I took my best friend along instead. And I assumed that of course everyone knew about Arlo Guthrie, and she didn't say anything to contradict that until afterward when she confessed that he'd gotten about halfway through with Alice's Restaurant before she realized that it wasn't just a very very long introduction to a song that hadn't started yet.

I realized how easy it would be to make mock of something like that and turn an enjoyable evening into a gatekeeping exam. And I think I avoided doing so inadvertently. I hope so. (We're still best friends.)

Just a juxtaposition of things on my mind.

#6 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2015, 07:34 PM:

When you leave a community, you mourn, too.

I still miss some of the people I worked with; I don't know if they miss me, though. I also know that some of them have left that group and had their own mourning to deal with.

#7 ::: Jim Parish ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2015, 08:40 PM:

It's interesting to see this post, just having finished reading Robert Charles Wilson's The Affinities, which I read as being about (among other things) the benefits and the dangers of community-building. (Any time you form an "us", you form a "them", and care needs to be taken....)

#8 ::: Michael Froomkin ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2015, 08:44 PM:

At the other far end of the community spectrum lies Kurt Vonnegut's 'grandfalloon'. He invented the term in Cat's Cradle; I remember it as being any collection of people with anything in common no matter how transitory.

Wikipedia, on the other hand, gives the term a a slightly more sinister cast than I recall, namely: "A granfalloon, in the fictional religion of Bokononism (created by Kurt Vonnegut in his 1963 novel Cat's Cradle), is defined as a "false karass". That is, it is a group of people who affect a shared identity or purpose, but whose mutual association is actually meaningless."

(I learn too that there was a Hugo-nominated fanzine by that name.)

#9 ::: Angiportus ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2015, 09:28 PM:

I once thought that we had a community like you describe at my workplace, but I was mistaken.
I'm still looking for one.

#10 ::: Carol Kimball ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2015, 09:33 PM:

An ingenue in a theater group I was with was telling of the sensation she'd gotten with a performance for her speech class. She had barely started into it when about half of us chorused, "Alice's Restaurant!"

Crestfallen, she said, "you know it?" and got back, "honey, we lived it."

#11 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2015, 09:40 PM:

I went from having a community to work to . . . sheesh.

I still walk past and sit among the people I worked with for as long as 17 years, and it's not like we don't talk . . . but I'm working on another project, with a remote team. Think phone conferences and lots of email. I have no meetings or other business with the old team. I'm not alone; a lot of them have been spun off to work with other remote teams.

It is a pretty sucky situation. I still bring in cakes like I used to, but that's a slender thread.

This sort of arrangement is awful. If I want to retire the way I want I still need to work for five more years, but I don't think I can last that long.

#12 ::: Em ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2015, 09:57 PM:

halfway through with Alice's Restaurant before she realized that it wasn't just a very very long introduction to a song that hadn't started yet.

That was pretty much my reaction to it, followed by "wow, this is boring." I suspect there's some sort of other cultural Thing one has to have to properly appreciate it. I also have that reaction to Peanuts, for what it's worth. I think maybe I lack the proper nostalgia for the subject matter, or something. It's pretty evidently only boring to me, among the people I know!

#13 ::: Em ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2015, 10:16 PM:

Self @12, double-posting: And it occurs to me that with Alice's Restaurant, that cultural context is the draft and the Vietnam war, which is present as cultural background for a lot of people growing up but wasn't for me in the late eighties and nineties in Quebec. We didn't even learn about it in school until we were sixteen, so there's that. That's probably a big part of it.

(Sorry - this is a subject where I'm mostly ignorant except for what I've picked up in bits and pieces, and I'm thoroughly happy to be educated about it by anyone who does know more, which given the population of "Americans who are older than I am" here is probably a lot of you.)

#14 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2015, 10:16 PM:

This is a great concept, and one that I will remember MUST take place (or be specifically thwarted) in any story involving strangers thrown together.

I've worked in environments where the boss made decisions that seemed (incompetently or deliberately) designed to prevent this process, and to break down any community that was forming. Discouraging any communication that didn't go through them, even within the team, but especially with outsiders, was part of it. So was firing key people who everyone talked to.

This is the behavior of a cult leader or tyrant. They're horrible people to work for. Actually there are too many words in that sentence.

#15 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2015, 10:30 PM:

Since I retired, I still dream about about being back at work more often than not. I'm hoping that will stop eventually.

In most respects, I love retirement. But there's no denying that the sense of community that comes from work is what keeps it tolerable.

#16 ::: Em ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2015, 10:40 PM:

Xopher @14:

The call centres I've worked for had everyone swap desks every three weeks, so that you wouldn't be sitting next to the same person for more than that period of time. Ostensibly it was to use the space more efficiently as people were hired and left.

#17 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2015, 10:49 PM:

abi@2: not sure also -- it's definitely a force the sculptor may use, and like growth in bonsai it happens without a conscious user. I think Sturgeon points to it; some people use it consciously; and it's also a force of human nature. We get to play with it when we're looking at how we make community. Not all uses of force are conscious.

#18 ::: Sarah ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2015, 11:04 PM:

I like this word. This is a good word. I'm keeping it.

Are there people who are congenitally incapable of being part of Koinopoiesis, do you think?

Are there times when Koinopoiesis is an illusion that a person of status holds while they are being served? I.e., one person believes that they are part of a community, while in reality they are being sheltered from the contempt of the people around them by their own power over those same people?

#19 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2015, 11:18 PM:

The Inadvertant O'Hare community...

Once upon a time, the gods of weather sent down a horrible thunderstorm, one so violent that every airline cancelled ALL their flights, and so a great crowd was marooned within the airport.

There was a gathering place with telephones that linked to area hotels. Long lines formed -- but as each person conversed with the hotel clerks and obtained a room they would ask if there were any rooms remaining -- and when there were they would pass the phone to the person behind them.

And so I joined a convivial group heading for a Holiday Inn in Rolling Meadows, Illinois. We had a jolly time in the hotel restaurant that evening, and re-convened in the morning to head back to O'Hare and flights home...

I often wonder how they are -- but I am certain that folk so kind and so resilient are probably doing just fine.

#20 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2015, 12:36 AM:

Heather Rose Jones @5: Questions asked in shorthand expecting a common set of cultural knowledge is why, when another guy in my first all-transmasculine support group asked me if I was stone, I blinked, blinked again, took a flying leap at it, and said, "I'm kind of straightedge but not prissy about it, I don't mind if anyone else does," which confused the heck out of everyone present until we both stepped back six verbal paces and discussed out that I had NO IDEA what was just said.

Jargon that is homonymous with common-idiom words is confusing. Though often useful for coded speech in enemy territory, of course.

#21 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2015, 01:12 AM:

...okay, so what did it mean?

#22 ::: Soon Lee ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2015, 03:28 AM:

Heather Rose Jones #5:

Your comment in a previous thread resonated with me though I struggle to properly articulate why. I don't think I've ever felt fully part of any community except with small close-knit circle of friends, so the sense of not quite fitting-in has been constant (being a member of a minority (Asian) with minority interests (SFF/comics/RPGs) didn't help).

The advent of the internet & online communities helps, but most of the time it's still like intersecting sets; part of me feels a member of this community, while another part feels like a member of that community. But I do try to appreciate the sense of community when I feel it (which isn't all the time).

I am also mindful that the cultural references known to a group that can make a newcomer feel excluded. (Randall Munroe is wise.)

For me, a recent example of an ad hoc community is File770. I might have visited a handful of times a year if that, but since this year's Hugo nomination announcement, a community of commenters has accreted, initially to discuss Hugo news, but also to filk, share recommendations, discuss books & stories, and in the process a community has formed. I find myself checking-in there daily.

#23 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2015, 06:27 AM:

I had not intended to make anyone feel excluded with this post. I'm sorry. I've been the remote one in otherwise co-located teams, and it is indisputably difficult. Koinopoiēsis is still possible over phone and email (just as it is on the internet; File770 is an excellent recent example), but it's harder.

And loss of one's community never really stops aching. I still make Everything2 references to myself, quietly, when no one is listening.

In-group references (and my post is full of skiffy ones) are both a sign that koinopoiēsis has occurred, and a blocker to further occurrence. I think that Munro's response, the concept of the lucky 10,000 people who get to learn a new thing today, is a tremendously powerful antidote. It's a definitional contradiction, an in-group reference that prevents exclusion.

Munro's a genius. But we knew that.

Vonnegut, also a genius, is correct that a grandfalloon is not a community. But what he misses is that membership in one is the kind of social lubricant that leads to koinopoiēsis, or perhaps to karassipoiēsis. It can be one's kan-kan, opening the conversation that leads to discovering that people share a wampeter and are, in fact, part of a karass. (Glossary for this paragraph here.)

#24 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2015, 06:39 AM:

And Benjamin Wolfe @3:

Perhaps the worst version I've seen is for a new-ish entrant to fight against the community, and poison the community against themselves.

Some of the communities I'm dealing with are small too: scrum teams of 5-7 developers, a scrum master, and me (the product owner).

Sometimes a new person will fight against the community because they're takers and not givers. But more often, they're people whose values do not quite align with the team's. And the degree of conflict is often a sign that they are still passionate and engaged, just not pointed in the right direction.

That takes a lot of talking to resolve: reminding parties of the common ground they do have, explaining people to one another, explaining how they come across to others. I find it helpful to by-the-way explain Tuckman to the various parties, emphasizing how "storming" really is part of the natural lifecycle of team formation. The subtext is that the conflict is not a disaster, not a sign that the relationships will fail. It's just part of the adaptation process. Don't take it too seriously. Don't, as it were, panic.

Of course, sometimes koinopoiēsis doesn't happen, just as sometimes communities go septic (I'm watching one do that right now, elsewhere, and wishing I could help. I've intervened elseweb from time to time, but it's hard to do without standing in the troubled community.)

And sometimes communities survive with long-running internal conflict, and not the "awesome creative tension" kind of conflict. There is no panacea; humans are too messy and complicated for anything involving them to be simple.

(But that's why I love them.)

#25 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2015, 07:46 AM:

Sarah #18: There are certainly people who are really bad at forming community with a group of "normal" people -- that's part of the classic burden of the autistic spectrum. However, they're much better at forming community among people who have autistic characteristics. Even then though, I don't think that's symmetrical -- ISTM the subclinicals in the group do end up with more of the emotional work, probably because (1) they're better at it, and (2) they want the community too, and they can figure out that if they don't put effort into it, it's not going to happen.

A comparision that doesn't involve community in the same sense: I like to work on wikis, because I'm really good at writing and pretty good at editing. For my last couple of wikis, I took the initiative, with... ambiguous results.

For one, I initially "adopted" an abandoned wiki, then later found out there was an already-active wiki for that mod. I noted that prior efforts had been foiled by splits among multiple wiki efforts, so I folded my work into the older wiki, started bringing pages up to my own standards, and eventually got admin status there.

For the other, the dev for another mod had been muttering about "new wiki someday", and I eventually claimed the mod name at Wikia, saying "here, we have a site to work on". Well, it turned out that Wikia didn't offer the necessary privileges to do what he wanted (version namespaces)... but (IMHO) my efforts got him off his butt, and he started setting up a new wiki at another site, which is now proceeding through the usual setup stages.

Note that neither of those worked out quite as I'd planned, but both times, I did end up with a wiki to work on, apparently without pissing anybody off.

#26 ::: lorax ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2015, 09:10 AM:

Heather Rose Jones @5:

I realized how easy it would be to make mock of something like that and turn an enjoyable evening into a gatekeeping exam. And I think I avoided doing so inadvertently. I hope so. (We're still best friends.)

As with so many things, having a phrase for this sort of thing has helped me with it, to delight in introducing people to something new to them that I love rather than expressing disbelief that they hadn't previously encountered it. For me, this is XKCD's Lucky 10,000.

#27 ::: Russell Letson ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2015, 11:29 AM:

I was hardly a teenager when I encountered it, but the movie that illustrates (part of) this notion for me is The Outlaw Josie Wales--though I've always thought of what it is built there as an artificial family. Of course, that loner-(re)creates-a-family/tribe trope is a variation on the motley-crew-of-adventurers motif and is all over popular narrative, especially caper movies and westerns. (Josie's family has a much better outcome than Pike's tribe in The Wild Bunch.)

I spent the week before last at a music camp with some people I've been seeing annually for up to 20 years. Many of the instructors are also frequent returnees, and when they get on stage for a dance set, you'd think they'd been rehearsing for weeks--but their last gig together was the previous July. Music is their wampeter. (Of course, it also helps to be really, really good at one's craft.)

#28 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2015, 11:44 AM:

I love this concept, and my experiences of community have been deeply important to me in both good and bad ways. To belong, with no doubt of one's belonging, is an awesome thing. (IMO, taking a brief religious side-road, it's one of the defining characteristics of the kingdom of heaven). To be a part of a community that goes toxic or fractures, or to have one-time community members turn on you for no reason you comprehend, is devastating.

The thing I see you taking for granted, abi, is the positive nature of the community, or perhaps the positive nature of the formation process.

Jim Parish @7 touched on this when he said (Any time you form an "us", you form a "them", and care needs to be taken....) Communities form that are not good for the broader community nor for the individuals in them, but belonging-ness still feels good.

The other piece that concerns me is the shaping process. It is in the nature of community that it shapes us, as we shape it. We will smooth off rough edges to fit better with the community, and that's a good thing. But it risks becoming Procustean pseudo-community, a demand that any new entrant make him/herself over to join.

IMO a healthy community values the community itself and its core values, but also values the individuals in it, as individuals with an identity distinct from the community.

I think I value true koinopoiēsis and those who facilitate it so much because there are so many ways for it to go wrong.

#29 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2015, 01:29 PM:

OtterB @28:

I'm trying not to be defensive here, but when people use my name as an interjection in the midst of a sentence, it pushes all of my "direct accusation" buttons.

Would it be possible to reframe your comment so that it doesn't all but directly state that I'm really naïve about communities and the risks inherent in their formation? One can blog about the beauty of water without being assumed to be ignorant of the risks of drowning, surely.

#30 ::: Benjamin Wolfe ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2015, 01:38 PM:

Abi @ 24

One of the failure modes, to my mind, for community-making is when a new member is never willing to give back to the community. Early on, particularly in the context of research labs, a new member simply doesn't know enough about how the community works to do much other than take. There starts to be a problem, to my mind, if they can't or won't shift to a combination of giving and taking. I recall a memorable occurrence where a new-ish entrant simply wasn't willing to learn (and wanted other people to do their job for them), and because of this set every hand in the community against them in a matter of months.

One of your later points - that "The subtext is that the conflict is not a disaster, not a sign that the relationships will fail. It's just part of the adaptation process." is something I've found all too true. Conflict itself isn't a problem, it's the symptom of a problem in need of a solution. Solving conflicts within a community is a hard problem, and one that I'm not as good at as I'd like to be (I'm all too inclined to solve problems with the largest hammer to hand, which isn't a good way to help a community endure).

Ruminating on conflicts in communities makes me think of different behaviors and their consequences in communities - it's one thing for a new member to put a foot wrong, and learn from that, it's much more toxic for a new member to repeat the offense knowing that their conduct is unacceptable. A community requires that members are able to think beyond themselves, and failing to do so once it's been pointed out does not bode well for their continued acceptance in the community.

#31 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2015, 02:24 PM:

abi @28 Ack! So sorry! I see that on rereading but nothing could be further from my intention. It's a seriously infelicitous editing of two components: (1) the thought that koinopoiēsis, like so many good things in human interaction, has its dark side, and (2) your name because I had gone back to your link about food and community in the original post and your comments about the pleasures of sharing food with colleagues made me think about the thin line between office lunches as a positive, and coerced office socializing in a dysfunctional sense, and I was mentally discussing it with you.

To clarify, I'm well aware that you know the potential downsides; it's apparent by the line you walk in this community. Nor did I mean to imply that your original post on the beauty of the water should have contained warnings about drowning. I found your post deeply thought-provoking, as they so often are, and that was the direction my line of thought took. koinopoiēsis is beautiful, and valuable, and we should have more of it, and one of the reasons we don't have more of it is because it's a difficult balancing of opposing forces. And also because communication, it breaks down sometimes.

#32 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2015, 02:27 PM:

And that should have been abi @29. I am reading on preview, honest. Just not very well today, apparently.

#33 ::: Adrian ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2015, 04:10 PM:

Sarah #18, I don't think anybody is congenitally incapable of koinopoiesis, though it's easy to find people who are only capable of it under certain limited circumstances. "Can't do it here," or "Can't do it with us," ends up looking a lot like "Hopelessly incapable of doing it at all." That's one of the ways it's hard to think well of a person we only see in a context where they don't quite fit.

I'm uncomfortable thinking of the ability as congenital, when so much of it has to do with learned skills. I used to think my mother was completely incapable of building or joining community. Then I realized I just wasn't watching her in any places where she believed worthwhile community could exist or could include her.

#34 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2015, 04:36 PM:

OtterB @31:

Sorry for the delay in answering...I am actually in the midst of making oatmeal cookies for a little inter-team session tomorrow. There's been a thing. We're going to do a thing.

As it happens, I love koinopoiēsis wherever I see it. I think this thing that we can do is as important a gift as free will or the knowledge of consequences. I think that we are what we are because we do form communities, and through them, exceed our individual capacity for good.*

I know that we can also exceed our individual capacity for evil by the same means. Poisonous communities also do that magical thing, be they GamerGate or Rabid Puppies, but that just means that I am extra-disappointed in them. I know they could do better, just as a troll could use the time and keyboard to write something worth reading. All of these people take good things, powerful things, and use them to make the world worse. I disapprove. But I don't hate the tools, because I've seen what they can do in better hands.

I was thinking a lot about Orson Scott Card's Speaker for the Dead when I was writing this. To me, it's a book about how communities form, and how they re-form when new people come. But it also uses koinopoiēsis for evil, when the colonists coalesce into a mob in one scene, complete with torches.

(It's also a book that uses community membership as a proxy for characterization, which is less good. When I first read it, I was struck by the opening scene, when Novinha wants to take the professional exam but is not allowed to until she demonstrates that there is some community somewhere that she feels a part of. Rereading it now, I see the Suck Fairy's been by, but at the time, I was floored that someone would talk so openly about communities! as a thing! It was like the needle finding north for the first time.)

Mind you, over on the Open Thread right now, we have a couple of people who are struggling to feel part of our community, and whom the community is struggling to feel comfortable around. And some of that is on me, because I too have failings, limits, and a finite distance that I can extend my own trust.

I believe, in sum, that koinopoiēsis is good the way that much of our world is good, that it can be used for ill because there is no tool that we can't seem to turn into a weapon, and that I too am an imperfect wielder of it.

* In our shared religious context, koinopoiēsis is also about becoming the Body of Christ. Indeed, this whole blog post is my Making Light-flavored reaction to a complex and interesting sermon about the feeding of the five thousand, and how that breaking of bread created a community out of a crowd of isolated individuals.

#35 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2015, 04:50 PM:

So I'm at Alpha right now, and we have that. Twenty students come together and form a community, and ten staff are their own community; the two together make this year's workshop, and at the end, the students will be invited to join the online Alpha alumni community, which is fierce and awesome.

The community-forming isn't as dramatic as it once was, or I don't see the drama. Drama being not unpleasantness but force and emotion, relief that someone else grew up in the same books you did.

So I will be thinking about this.

I will also be making Benjamin Wolfe's vanilla cake at least twice in the next couple days. A loooot of baking going on, yes.

#36 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2015, 05:31 PM:

Adrian, #33: Off on a slight tangent here... IME an awful lot of people are willing, and sometimes eager, to attribute things to congenital or biological traits which, to me, are blindingly obviously culturally mediated. And now I'm wondering whether that tendency itself is an inherent or a learned trait...

#37 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2015, 07:02 PM:

David Goldfarb @21: My interlocutor was asking if I were stone butch, which is a known Thing in lesbian communities, but also sometimes relates to the transmasculine experience of bodily dysphoria in a gendered way.

#38 ::: Heather Rose Jones ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2015, 07:02 PM:

I'm sorry if my riff on my Alice's Restaurant experience sent the thread off into a Bad Place. I'm afraid the hazards have been a bit too much on my mind this week. (See my comments in the open thread.) I've experienced many positive examples of koinopoiesis and I fully understood the intent of the post. I just let my own bad mood seep over, I'm afraid.

#39 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2015, 09:41 PM:

Heather Rose Jones: I suspect there's something in the air this week; I've been feeling dis-communitated lately, too, entirely unrelated to anything else. As a consequence, I've been fighting an Attitude. Maybe a planet is in retrograde...?

#40 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2015, 10:13 PM:

Venus is.

#41 ::: Stefan S ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2015, 10:21 PM:

Ahh, takes me back, takes me back... I was never really in the SCA as an adult, but as a kid I went to things with a friend's family, feasts I suppose, and even though I was wearing hasty paisley curtain-fabric tunic over ragged tights, I was instantly comfortable; in fact in many ways that exact feeling is one that I have yet to entirely get back: running around, wood things, iron things, kind and funny-looking people (don't trust a group without anyone funny-looking), food, music by hand, and a hearth.

I didn't realize until recently the effort it takes to guide, preserve, encourage, fertilize those feelings, I thought it just *happened*. Many faded communities later I realize it takes not only effort but wisdom, flexibility, a place that stays, a certain spark. All those places on the internet I used to go... written on the wind (or in one case, drawn on the wind).

The piece of apropos writing I instantly thought of was Anne Herbert's essay in an old CoEvolution Quarterly, many years past by the time I had read it, about a gathering they had. Others have touched, as this piece does, on the connection at the heart of religious community, and of course food is crucial, but there's another feeling she articulates that I think of very often: "if you take someone to lunch you just get each other's stories, but if you set up folding chairs together, you find out what people are really like and if you really like them." The essay does ring a little sad for me because I think they never did meet like that again. What could have been?

It's a melancholy topic for me because I am not of any particular community right now, when I need it (who doesn't?). Nevertheless it's nice to be at least at the edges here, where people talk of such things. I'd fold chairs with any of you.

That feeling in planes and bean suppers and bus stations: it's good to have a word. Koinopoiēsis, weak or strong: it's easier to look for something when you have a name to grow the idea on.

#42 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2015, 10:45 PM:

Seems like whenever I get up in the morning, Earth is in retrograde relative to me.

#43 ::: cajunfj40 ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2015, 11:41 PM:

Koinopoiēsis. Thank you for this word, abi.

I'd fold chairs with y'all anytime, to borrow a concept Stefan S brought up. That's my main community-building tool, the actual physical work stuff. It has direct, measurable output and I can tell I did it and it helped. Aside from accidentally insulting others' abilities by sometimes taking over a bit too much in that respect, or actually physically harming someone through carelessness or similar, it's pretty hard to hurt a community/people in it by trying to help in that way.

I'm a moderator/organizer too, but that's a lot harder to gauge the results of, other than the people keep coming back.

Is it a thing to not really be able to tell when one is valued as part of a community, absent direct statements from others in the community, and similar types of objective proof? If so, I have that. Makes it hard to tell whether any given strategy is going to help or hinder.

#44 ::: Joe Crow ::: (view all by) ::: July 29, 2015, 09:47 AM:

An interesting thing that I've noticed (for somewhat depressing values of "interesting") in a lifetime of working scrub retail jobs is how much management training for floor-level management folks seems to teach them to discourage this sort of community-forming. I suspect this is deliberate, on some level, although they do try to retain a thin facade of "we're all in this together"-ness. But pretty much everyplace I've ever worked, the management was pretty keen on keeping everybody as out of touch with each other as possible. And, for that matter, as out-of-touch with the customers as possible, while still allowing us to do our jobs. Anything to keep us identifying with our paychecks instead of our co-workers and customers.

#45 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: July 29, 2015, 10:21 AM:

One thing I've noticed about some communities is that they'll get comfortable with how things are and be totally oblivious that this person over there might be worth inviting in. I know of one writer who found himself/herself with other writers.

#46 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: July 29, 2015, 11:11 AM:

This resonates in that there are all sorts of communities, and I live in a self-defined one that is undergoing some gradual change as it gets larger, more mature, and seems to be being pulled in different directions. You could almost look at the early days of our redevelopment of an old airport in the center of town as the founding of a New Jerusalem, a City On A Hill, with all sorts of community-based customs based on shared spaces and shared food, but as the years go by and it gets larger, newer residents frequently don't seem to Get It. No more Wedge Wednesdays or Garden Court Splash Nights, way fewer block parties. One of the main threads tying us together over the last few years has been technological: the neighborhood has the highest percentage of solar-panel ownership and electric car ditto, so there's still that to strive for.

#47 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: July 29, 2015, 11:45 AM:

Joe, #44: The flip side of that is the company which encourages its employees to think of themselves as "one big family" as a way of getting them to put up with, shall we say, less-than-ideal working conditions and general exploitation. I was on contract with one of those for about 6 months, and let me tell you, that model was seriously creepy from an outsider's viewpoint.

#48 ::: Chuk ::: (view all by) ::: July 29, 2015, 12:14 PM:

That line describing the Venn diagram was great.

#49 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: July 29, 2015, 01:40 PM:

Argh! The lack of Koinopoiēsis here at work hit hard today. My office is not in the same geographic area as any of the people I work with, so they have a terrible tendency to forget about me. We actually had a scheduled lunch today, for our technical team, and although I was reminded of it, I wasn't given the important information -- when they were leaving and where they were going -- so I missed the lunch. It's both aggravating and depressing at the same time. Without the word, I'd just be wondering why I'm so upset; now I can perceive the lack of community in my group. My thanks, Abi, for the sharing of this word and concept.

#50 ::: Heather Rose Jones ::: (view all by) ::: July 29, 2015, 01:57 PM:

Stefan @41

I love the concept/experience encapsulated in the phrase "folding chairs with"! I learned early on to use that as an entry technique. If I know no other way to initiate connections, volunteer.

I was a bit stymied when I tried that with my dragonboat club and found myself in a context where the volunteer opportunities (especially around race days) tended to be specialized and known-by-tradition enough that an inexperienced hand was often more in the way than useful. I switched my focus to getting qualified as a steersperson. There's solid appreciation on those occasions when you're the only qualified person to show up for practices and are the only reason the boat can go out. But it's not the same sort of "folding with" thing.

I've folded stacks of chairs and tables, swept acres of floors, washed cabinets full of dishes. Even if it doesn't necessarily result in on-going individual connections, there's that sense of playing in the band during the moment.

#51 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: July 29, 2015, 02:20 PM:

Ginger @ 49... Sorry to hear. It's a situation I've on the receiving en of all too frequently, and it's no fun.

#52 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: July 29, 2015, 03:54 PM:

Both here and on the Open Thread, there's a deep current of nostalgia for former iterations of communities, particularly Making Light as it previously was. Are we as tolerant, as engaged, as magical and as delightful, as we were before? Do we value one another as much? Or has the fresh wellspring of conversation and community moved elsewhere?

I've been thinking a lot about this. I think the reality is a blend between nostalgia and genuine change. I think the proportions are debatable, but the mix is not.

On the one hand, there is a great tendency to see the past of a beloved thing through rose-tinted glasses. It's easy to remember all the poetry slams and parlor games and forget the thousand-comment arguments and the excruciating, exhausting election-season discussions. Reading through the archives, I do see the magical stuff, but I also see a lot of threads that needed massive, heroic mod intervention. I also see the sentiment that we were better in some distant past, usually alongside nostalgia for some or all of the following: good old Electrolite, the glory days of rec.arts.sf, the pace and tone of APAs, the taste of well-exercised carrier pigeon roasted over a telegraph-pole fire.

On the other hand, the conversation on the web genuinely is changing. Fewer and fewer blogs have engaged comment sections. The metacommentary happens offsite, on Reddit, MeFi, fora such as Absolute Write, or good old Livejournal. Or it's on social media of one form or another. And the social groups have moved with the commentariat, because humans. I get a lot more of my social interaction over Twitter†, and I certainly hear of very good conversation on Facebook. I know many fans have found good communities on Tumbr, Goodreads, Dreamwidth*, and other places beyond my ken. And I'm happy for that—it's more important to me that koinopoiēsis occurs than that it does in my riding.

And of course I know plenty of people who assert that there is no true community possible without face to face contact. Communities change, and as they do, our notion of community itself changes. We can't stop it; we can only ride it in good company.

† Twitter has certainly taken some of my blogging energy, because it's shorter and more tolerant of incomplete thoughts. And it has parlor games started by someone other than me.
* hi, meme

#53 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: July 29, 2015, 04:22 PM:

abi @ 52... I remember the infamous "sky is evil" thread.

#54 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: July 29, 2015, 04:25 PM:

Stefan @41:

Like Heather Rose Jones, I like the concept of "folding chairs". It's how I ended up where I am with regard to Making Light. It's also how I knew that I had finally come to regard myself as a member of my church: I leapt at the chance to do something for the community when it became clear that it was a known need.

cajunfj40 @43:
Is it a thing to not really be able to tell when one is valued as part of a community, absent direct statements from others in the community, and similar types of objective proof? If so, I have that. Makes it hard to tell whether any given strategy is going to help or hinder.

Yep, totally a thing. And it's hard to get a community to spend enough time addressing individuals and making them feel individually welcome, mostly from the fear of missing someone out and making them feel even worse.

Chuk @48:
Well, thank you!

Ginger @49:
My office is not in the same geographic area as any of the people I work with, so they have a terrible tendency to forget about me. We actually had a scheduled lunch today, for our technical team, and although I was reminded of it, I wasn't given the important information -- when they were leaving and where they were going -- so I missed the lunch. It's both aggravating and depressing at the same time.

It is aggravating and depressing. My remote teams were always too far away for social events, but I got tired of having to poke at them when they'd forget to involve me in matters that were my job to sort out. I always feel whiny and secretly inadequate when I have to assert my value like that.

For the record, you do matter, and the lunch was poorer without you.

Heather Rose Jones @50:
I've folded stacks of chairs and tables, swept acres of floors, washed cabinets full of dishes. Even if it doesn't necessarily result in on-going individual connections, there's that sense of playing in the band during the moment.

A hugely important point. I have had teams I've loved, where the koinopoiēsis was like a lightning bolt, but whose members I've totally lost touch with when the team broke up. And even when it's been a less powerful connection, the time spent working together has often been full of grace and peace.

#55 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: July 29, 2015, 04:27 PM:

Serge @53:

That is one, but not the only, thread that I was thinking about. Really not the only one.

#56 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: July 29, 2015, 04:30 PM:

abi @ 55... Oh, I know that. It's just that it was one of the most prominent examples in my mind for personal reasons. (Others I don't mention, also for personal reasons.)

#57 ::: Nickelby ::: (view all by) ::: July 29, 2015, 05:22 PM:

Chairs... a long time ago at a worldcon (either Constellation or the one in Chicago the year before or after Baltimore) I was gophering. Wandering the halls, I walked by the Con Ops room and saw the odd sight of the room neatly laid out with a couple-three rows of tables and the staff all in their positions, phones & clipboards at the the ready...and all standing since there wasn't a chair in the room. H'mm, maybe it's a con thing I thought. (I was still new to the world of cons back then.) I walked a few more steps and looked into the next function room--it was unoccupied and FULL of, not rows set up for an audience but STACKS. Much like a comedy I backed up and looked at the ops room again and then forward and decided that perhaps hotel maintenance staff was in need of assistance.

The next 3 fen I saw found themselves volunteering to move chairs from the function room into the ops room. Mr. Whitmore was there and grateful.

From this, there was suddenly a small community of 4 people that did break up at the end of the con. For the the short time it existed, it made the con one of the best I've ever attended.

#58 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: July 29, 2015, 05:24 PM:

abi (52): I've been re-reading old threads lately*, in chronological order from the beginning. I just reached August 2007; that summer was definitely a contentious time. There have been other such patches.

*at least my third time through the complete** archive, counting my catching-up after I first stumbled across Making Light in 2004

**I linger over the games and the delights; the endless arguments I skim or skip.

#59 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: July 29, 2015, 05:31 PM:

Mary Aileen @58:

And I note you've been flagging undeleted spam as you've gone. Speaking of folding chairs.

#60 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: July 29, 2015, 06:39 PM:

Just got back from a brief stint volunteering or my City Councilor Candidate of Choice.

Boy howdy, either the air quality today was horrible o making cold calls sends my anxiety off the charts. Even when just leaving voicemails. Because even after a hit on my inhaler, I can't breathe. I put in an hour, completed one of my three sheets, and excused myself. I'm scheduled to try again tomorrow night, and I'm signed up for the door-knocking training on Saturday. Stepping out of my comfort zone...

But I tried I really did give it a try.

#61 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: July 29, 2015, 06:39 PM:

abi (59): Yep. It seems to need doing, so I do it.

#62 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: July 29, 2015, 06:47 PM:

Yikes, I meant that to be an Open Thread post, but local campaigns are about community building, right?


#63 ::: Benjamin Wolfe ::: (view all by) ::: July 29, 2015, 07:00 PM:

Ideally, yes, campaigns are fundamentally about community building. Reminds me of the former labmate who left research (wasn't his thing) to work for Obama's '08 campaign. Did well working for the Tennessee group, parlayed that into working for the national campaign through the 2012 election. He'd certainly argue that the campaign was a community.

#64 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: July 29, 2015, 07:04 PM:

abi @ 52...

I expect that people miss the days when some spun puns by the ton.
I heard that.

#65 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: July 30, 2015, 12:18 AM:

Nickelby @57 -- and thank you again! Sometimes all it takes is one person noticing what's going on to help things run better.

#66 ::: Rachel ::: (view all by) ::: July 30, 2015, 01:06 AM:

I have been thinking a lot about community forming and how it happens lately, because about two years ago, my husband and I moved to Ecuador. We're in a city of about 500,000, and there is an ex-pat community here of 3-4,000. All of the ex-pats have something in common - we moved to another country - but maybe not a lot past that. But most people feel an instant part of the community of ex-pats, and most older residents reach out and help newer ones in any way they can. And yet, there are smaller communities within the larger ex-pat one, that can be very excluding and clique-y, almost self-consciously so. These people still reach out to newer people instantly, but just for the standard newbie info and suggestions, not to be part of their community. It's such a strange mix of good community and bad community.

Btw, I've been lurking here at Making Light for years, never really getting up the courage to comment, but I'm retired now and this is something that really interests me, so I thought I'd take the plunge.

#67 ::: Soon Lee ::: (view all by) ::: July 30, 2015, 01:28 AM:

Rachel, welcome. I'm a mostly lurker here myself.

#68 ::: Rachel ::: (view all by) ::: July 30, 2015, 02:58 AM:


#69 ::: Alex R. ::: (view all by) ::: July 30, 2015, 03:14 AM:

Abi, I'm not sure I have much to say, but thanks for a great word and a great thread.

#70 ::: Martin Wisse ::: (view all by) ::: July 30, 2015, 03:44 AM:

You don't need the countdown to know if you're gonna make the ferry: you just need to see how far along that stream of passengers coming off the ferry is when you get past the Ot & Sien bend and the fork to the sluice. Have they reached there already? Not going to make it.

I always check the oncoming traffic that way, coming off the sluice myself and I know that as long as it hasn't pulled off too far from the ferry, I have a decent chance of putting my bike away safely and make the ferry.

#71 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: July 30, 2015, 04:17 AM:

Martin Wisse @70:

You commute earlier than I do. By the time I'm coming, the ferries are emptier and I can't use the incoming-passenger metric. I was third to last on board this morning at 9:20 and the incoming passengers had completely dispersed by the time I turned onto that last stretch of bike path just south of Pek.

Most of the time I guess by how close the incoming ferry is; if it's about to dock, the outgoing one is more likely to leave than if it's still picking its way through the freight traffic on the river. But it's just a guess.

#72 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: July 30, 2015, 05:44 AM:

Rachel... Welcome.

#73 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: July 30, 2015, 01:17 PM:

Rachel, a thousand welcomes!

Do you write poetry?

(I am but a lame versifier, but I do try...)

#74 ::: Rachel ::: (view all by) ::: July 30, 2015, 02:22 PM:

Sorry, no poetry from me. I'm in awe of people who can!

#75 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: July 30, 2015, 03:30 PM:

Welcome, Rachel, to the Making Light commentariat, AKA the Fluorosphere! You're a fluorospherian now.

#76 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: July 30, 2015, 08:36 PM:

Rachel... The 'poetry' inquiry is something of a running gag that originated with abi the poetess.

#77 ::: Annie Y ::: (view all by) ::: July 30, 2015, 11:15 PM:

I am still not sure why noone asked me if I write poetry when I started posting here :)

#78 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: July 30, 2015, 11:58 PM:

Well, you write poetry?

#79 ::: Rachel ::: (view all by) ::: July 31, 2015, 12:45 AM:

Oh, I know. I just wish I could chip in! I have some fanfic I could offer, but that's about it.

#80 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: July 31, 2015, 01:00 AM:

Links seem to work better for fanfic here than actually posting, unless it's very short -- but several folks here have shown a tendency to go off and read, if pointed.

#81 ::: Benjamin Wolfe ::: (view all by) ::: July 31, 2015, 01:09 AM:

Welcome, Rachel, and by all means, link to your fanfic. Speaking for myself, my usual creative contributions to the Fluorosphere are culinary - I post recipes here occasionally, between other comments.

#82 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: July 31, 2015, 01:33 AM:

Rachel, #79: What kind of fanfic do you write, and in what fandoms? I recently posted a link to my latest one over on the Open Thread.

#83 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: July 31, 2015, 02:04 AM:


Speaking of communities.... :-)

#84 ::: Angiportus ::: (view all by) ::: July 31, 2015, 07:03 AM:

This might be a good place to mention that some communities, seemingly arisen and solidified as abi described, can turn out to foster some quite heinous people and their deeds. Not just "happy" "progressive" families where one or more children are sacrificed to keep the peace, but stuff like what apparently happened in sf fandom the other year--rather, was exposed then, had been happening for decades. The mess with Marion Zimmer Bradley and her ex and what they did to some kids including their own, and how so many people covered for them. A similar mess in the pagan sector, with Kenny Klein I believe it was. Supposedly, folks are trying to set up some rules to keep that from happening again.
Another blasted thing I gotta watch out for, and I'm not even a kid any more.

#85 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: July 31, 2015, 09:32 AM:

Angiportus, I think that goes back to Abi's comment about koinopoiesis being a tool, rather than a method. We build our communities of the choices we make. Sometimes we don't realize we're making those choices. Better to make them on purpose.

#86 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: July 31, 2015, 09:54 AM:

Season 2 of "Halt and Catch Fire", set in 1985, was not about a specific technical goal, but about the characters creating a phone-based gaming outfit and instead accidentally helping plant the seeds of an online community.

Yes, I'm nominating it for the Hugo's dramatic presentation - long form next year.

#87 ::: Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey ::: (view all by) ::: July 31, 2015, 10:32 AM:

Season 2 of "Halt and Catch Fire", set in 1985, was not about a specific technical goal, but about the characters creating a phone-based gaming outfit and instead accidentally helping plant the seeds of an online community.

Really? I wonder whether the filmmakers had Chip Morningstar, Randy Farmer, and Habitat in mind.

I met Chip in fannish circles before he got involved in Project Xanadu and Lucasfilm. Habitat seemed like a project that went way beyond the apparent technical capacity of the Commodore 64 and the back-end computers to create something astonishing.

Yes, I'm nominating it for the Hugo's dramatic presentation - long form next year.

What's your rationale for its Hugo eligibility?

#88 ::: estelendur ::: (view all by) ::: July 31, 2015, 10:32 AM:

I've been wanting to comment here but unable to get up the energy to do so.

Koinopoiesis is a wonderful word; I think I shall adopt it. It's a phenomenon I've always had difficulty with. I drop out of communities easily, and it's difficult for me to feel really at home (to date, I think I've had one, maybe two, social groups larger than eight people where I actually felt like I belonged, and the eight-person-and-under groups feel more like family to me than community). I've been shying away from commenting here since I posted something badly-phrased and badly-targeted some months ago and, frankly, felt a bit dog-piled by the response.

I feel as though I am on the edge of so many communities, and I hesitate to put myself forward because I'm afraid I'll be annoying. Setting up chairs etc is something I like to do and am good at, but online it isn't obvious how to engage with a community in almost-certainly-helpful-and-not-annoying ways like that.

#89 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: July 31, 2015, 10:43 AM:

Well. Apparently they felt bad about it at the lunch, but not enough to actually call me at the time. Still, my boss (who was there) apologized profusely. I also found out from my techs that they had only gotten a last-minute phone call to leave for lunch, thus it was clearly chaotic and not well-thought-out. (I don't blame my techs, they're not required to notify me of things like this. I did discuss with them the need to make sure other meetings with management would not happen without my presence, since I'm their supervisor, and should always be involved.)It doesn't help that 3 of the 4 techs are female, and all the other managers are male. There's some unexamined privileges here as well as the geographic distribution, and the legal divide between contract staff and full-time employees.

As for me, I'd packed a lunch just in case (lunches get delayed all the time), so I channeled my anger into some productivity at work and at home. I finished another book on my Kindle, too. Last night I did my weekly car seat check hours, and then went to my partner's place, all of which helped me feel more connected to community.

And, of course, I felt much better after venting here.

#90 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: July 31, 2015, 10:49 AM:

I'm halfway through Wilson's The Affinities. Lots of intersection with the concept of koinopoesis in that work.

And I see that Jim Parish already made this point. Should have checked before I was in the Preview pane...

#91 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: July 31, 2015, 11:03 AM:

estelendur, I've never seen you as an edge member of Making Light. When I see your name, I get a little burst of that light we all make here, because I know I'll be reading something thoughtful and interesting.

Ginger, I'm sorry you had to deal with that frustrating situation, and glad to hear about the potential for improvement and the productivity burst.

I'm off to follow up a job lead that a former boss set me on, including talking me up to the owner. Another thing that gives me a sense of community (this time in the world of independent bakeries).

#92 ::: Ingvar M ::: (view all by) ::: July 31, 2015, 11:20 AM:

Serge Broom @ #86, Bill Higgins @ #87:

To me, it sounds more like that "play Atari 2600 games by phone" (with added "social", like shared highscore tables and what-have-you) that, via a series of slow transformations, eventually became AOL.

#93 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: July 31, 2015, 11:21 AM:

Bill Higgins @ 87... Thanks for the link. It warms my heart that the people of 1990 refer to Cyberspace, and not to the Internet. Frankly, I wish that 'cyberspace' had caught on instead and no, I don't own mirror shades.

That being said, I would not be surprised that the creators of "Halt and Catch Fire" knew about this. I get the sense that they did a lot of research, even though they may have moved bits of History around for dramatic purposes.

That being said (bis), my rationale for nominating the series' Season Two for a Hugo is the same as it was for Season One (about which abi quoted me some months ago in a thread's opening salvo some months back). It's the same rationale by which I say that "The Right Stuff" should have won in 1984.

None of them are SF, but they all are about the impulse that motivates much SF: the creation of the Future.

#94 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: July 31, 2015, 11:26 AM:

Ingvar M @ 92... That's how AOL was born? I had no idea. I wonder. Is there a book about how all these things came to be that we now take for granted? (Me, I was a programmer back then, but a mainframe person who wrote COBOL programs, I am embarrassed to say.)

#95 ::: mjfgates ::: (view all by) ::: July 31, 2015, 12:22 PM:

Serge Broom@94: Habitat ran on top of Q-Link, a Commodore 64-only online service which eventually transmogrified into AOL. The main thing I remember about it was that you re-spawned after death holding your own head, which wouldn't have been that big a deal except that people could steal things that other people were holding. There were head-thieves everywhere.

#96 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: July 31, 2015, 12:41 PM:

So THAT'S where we get the term "headhunter" from!

#97 ::: Rachel ::: (view all by) ::: July 31, 2015, 12:56 PM:

estelender @88: I understand completely how you feel about communities - I often have to be convinced that I'm part of one. Or find out later that I'm not part of one that I thought I was. Whatever that sense that abi has, telling her that koinopoiēsis is happening...mine seems to be broken.

As for fanfic, I've written in several different fandoms, including a Harry Potter fifth year fic, back during the Three Year Summer. My most recent stuff has mostly been crossovers: I also wrote a fix-it fic for the end of Gosford Park that I'm fond of (Gosford Park is my favorite movie of all time):

#98 ::: estelendur ::: (view all by) ::: July 31, 2015, 12:56 PM:

Rikibeth @91: Thank you much for that :) I am always surprised to find that people like to read what I write, which I suppose points to a solid case of impostor syndrome.

Good luck with the job lead!

Rachel, let me add my voice to the chorus welcoming you (and asking what you write fic in/for).

#99 ::: estelendur ::: (view all by) ::: July 31, 2015, 01:16 PM:

Ha, that will teach me to not refresh before post :)

#100 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: July 31, 2015, 01:25 PM:

mjfgates @ 95... Thanks for the clarification. By the way, I still see some AOL email addresses once in a while, but it's a very rare while.

#101 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: July 31, 2015, 01:44 PM:

My "friends and family" email address is an AOL address!

I've had it for . . . I'd have to think. I got it because I was Beta testing "Geoworks Ensemble," a Windows-rival graphical interface that ran splendidly on modest hardware. And I got to do that because I was freelancing for a company that bundled GeoWorks and other software for low-rent PC vendors. 1991? 1992?

My AOL subscription was free for over ten years. Eventually they caught on. I had to go through hoops to maintain my three-letter email address when they transferred me to a paid account.

Two aunts are piggybacking on my AOL account (which allows five screen names). It could be free, but they want phone support so they chip in the $5.00 that costs.

#102 ::: Annie Y ::: (view all by) ::: July 31, 2015, 01:57 PM:

Xopher Halftongue @ 78

Now I officially feel like part of the community :)

Not anymore. And generally not in English - my handle of English is not strong enough for that to work out well.

And even when I did write some, I was always better at poetry translation than in writing my own...

Which does not mean that I cannot just switch to rhyming in weird moments - in either language.

#103 ::: HelenS ::: (view all by) ::: July 31, 2015, 02:03 PM:

I still have an AOL address. Still free.

#104 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: July 31, 2015, 02:09 PM:

Serge @100 I'm still using my AOL email address. I LIKE the fact that I've had the same email for more than 20 years now.

Which makes me think about stability as a virtue.

Which in turn makes me think about the fact that the Benedictine religious communities take a vow of stability to their chosen community. As I understand it, this is partly because community is hard, and staying around to work out the hard stuff is a way of developing yourself.

To be clear, I don't think anyone is obligated to stay in a community that makes them miserable, any more than I think they should stay in a marriage that makes them miserable. But I do think that we need to acknowledge that true, long-lasting community is both deeply rewarding and sometimes hard work. For short-term community (coming together over the folding chairs or a cancelled flight) we can enjoy the things we have in common and the rest may not even come up. Over the long haul, we also have to deal with the places where we differ.

#105 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: July 31, 2015, 03:05 PM:

I stand corrected, regarding what I had perceived as a current penury of AOL email addresses. Speaking of online communities, last time we moved, my wife and I really were drastic in throwing out old stuff, but I now wish we had kept that GEnie manual of Sue's. It'd be something of an antique now.

#106 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: July 31, 2015, 04:33 PM:

I have an AOL e-mail address now, because I had to get one to participate in Cassy's book-discussion group for The Goblin Emperor. I had successfully avoided having one for decades, and will probably never use it for anything else.

#107 ::: Ingvar ::: (view all by) ::: July 31, 2015, 05:04 PM:

mjfgates @ #95:

Seems that Q-Link sprung from GameLine, which was the company I was trying to remember the name of.

#108 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: July 31, 2015, 05:31 PM:

OtterB @104: I LIKE the fact that I've had the same email for more than 20 years now.

*blink* Wow. I think this year is the 20th aniversary of getting my Panix account. I'd been through a bunch of ISPs before that, eskimo, earthlink, and the like. When the third one died or was bought out, I decided to bite the bullet and shell out Real Money. I picked Panix because it was an address I saw all over rec.arts.sf.* space, and seemed pretty stable, even back then. Generally, my optimism has been validated. (Knock on wood, only one massive crash in all that time (that I know about) and they recovered fully, far as I can tell.)

#109 ::: Stefan S ::: (view all by) ::: July 31, 2015, 08:28 PM:

Welcome, Rachel.

...staying around to work out the hard stuff is a way of developing yourself. QFT

Long-term email was a thing I tried so hard to do, but then I hit a moneyless patch and it lapsed and I fell back onto free addresses; my poor orphan ML posts of yore are thus disconnected.

I'm having a thought just on the edge of grasping about the difference that Otterb @104 touched on regarding the quite different ways that koinopoiēsis works in short vs. long terms, sort of arising in the former (like mist on a ferry ride?) and being cultivated in the latter. When does the little arisen thing first need coaxing, how does one know? There is a wisdom to knowing whether after all the chairs are folded there is some future or wider thing to touch on. Since I feel so ignorant of community-sense my rough guides have been stories by U. K. Le Guin, who seems like she would get this word immediately; I'm thinking especially of her more recent stories set on O and also her book Searoad.

Shaun Tan's The Arrival also is about kionopoiēsis in the context of being a stranger, immigrating; manages to show it with no words at all. I almost feel abashed to mention it because I love that book all out of proportion and can't really speak rationally on it. Too close to my heart.

"Koinopoiēsis AU" is a nonsense phrase I can't get out of my head despite having no idea what it's even fanfic of. It is complete in that it contains all the vowels though (except poor y, and e slips under the wire as ē). Perhaps the characters of Community, transposed to ancient Greece?

Delighful trains of thought from this word, thank you Abi.

#110 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: July 31, 2015, 09:19 PM:

Back in the mid-1990s we went through four different cable-modem carriers in three years. That's when my husband and I said "to heck with this" and registered domains, so we'd have absolutely permanent email addresses....

#111 ::: Nameless Hack ::: (view all by) ::: August 01, 2015, 05:26 AM:

Mary Aileen @58: I am just a lurker, but I often read and re-read threads, sometimes from a long time ago. I'm glad that I'm not alone.

#112 ::: johnofjack ::: (view all by) ::: August 01, 2015, 10:20 AM:

Stefan S: Are you including "The Shobies' Story"? On seeing that it was published in 1990, I thought "that's recent ... oh. Wait. Not so recent, really."

#113 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: August 01, 2015, 12:09 PM:

johnofjack @112: "that's recent ... oh. Wait. Not so recent, really."

I had that experience when I saw trailers for Ricki and the Flash "Damn! Even the youngsters are getting old!"

#114 ::: Peter S. ::: (view all by) ::: August 01, 2015, 06:07 PM:

And this is precisely the genre of Amitav Ghosh's brilliant historical novel Sea of Poppies (although not of the sequel River of Smoke, which belongs to a different genre that I won't mention to avoid spoilers). I was looking for this word without even knowing it.

#115 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: August 02, 2015, 07:00 AM:

Naomi Novik talks about the fanfic community-- I didn't realize she was involved in the creation of Archive of Our Own and the yuletide gift exchange.

(Contrary to the title of the talk, she doesn't talk about Uprooted.)

It's a rapturous discussion of what can be accomplished when people care a lot about what they're doing, and money isn't involved except for fundraisers.

#116 ::: Sarah ::: (view all by) ::: August 02, 2015, 04:49 PM:

"Congenital" was probably not the word I ought to have used. I do wonder if there are people who are natural outsiders... who are, for whatever reason, incapable of being part of a community.

#117 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: August 02, 2015, 04:52 PM:

Steve C. @15: "But there's no denying that the sense of community that comes from work is what keeps it tolerable." And when it's absent... I get zero sense of community from my workgroup at my present workplace. It makes it harder for me to work. I see other workgroups having social interaction, but the one I'm in? They sit with their earphones in and the only words addressed to/from me most days are: "Tea/coffee?" I've tried and failed to get them to interact with me. I've been trying to habituate those in the next workgroup, who are only a few feet away, to my joining in their conversations occasionally, because I find being in company but outside a community, being denied community in fact, very draining. (I have no problem working alone, not in company - I've done that previously and in fact I've been doing so (working from home) for several weeks just recently due to my fractured ankle, and getting lots more work done because I'm away from that stress.)

Conversely, I get a lot of pleasure out of parkrun*, particularly the one I volunteer at most weeks, but I know that I can go to any of the c. 600 parkrun events around the world, to run or to volunteer, and koinopoiesis will be happening and I will be welcomed - which is why I wrote a book about it, parkrun: much more than just a run in the park.

Ginger: Sympathies for that missed lunch.

estelendur @88: Keep posting, please!

* A not-for-profit that organises free, 5K, timed runs (not races)) every Saturday morning, for all ages (four years old and up) and all abilities.

#118 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: August 03, 2015, 01:40 PM:


Koinopoesis AU seems like it would be the daydream you have about how that little group that formed a small, short-lived spontaneous community might have gone on to form a much longer-lived one, if something had gone differently--the ferry gets stuck in the middle of the canal for three hours, a giant freak snowstorm snows in all the kids stuck in the all-day detention room and they're together for a week, etc.

#119 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: August 03, 2015, 01:42 PM:

albatross @118 A three hour tour...

#120 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: August 03, 2015, 02:14 PM:

OtterB, albatross:

Exactly, precisely, something I think about, including that very example of an ephemeral shipboard community that had to become long-term.

#121 ::: oldster ::: (view all by) ::: August 03, 2015, 02:45 PM:


And, in a different register, the WWII bomber-crew movie about an unlikely assortment of disparate geographical stereotypes who are all assigned to the same plane, and soon come to realize that this group must somehow form a family etc. etc.

#122 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: August 03, 2015, 03:09 PM:

There's a useful distinction in approach to a community I learned from reading something from Keith Lynch a long time ago. (I'd link it, if I thought I could find it in any reasonable amount of time.) When he was in prison[1] many years ago, he noticed the difference between short-timers and long-timers. This difference wasn't about how long different peoples' sentences were, so much as their attitude. Is life inside prison the long-term world I'm centered around, or is life outside prison the long-term world I'm centered around?

Most communities aren't so much like a prison, but this distinction seems really useful in a lot of communities. I've noticed this in real-world communities (how does your attitude about your neighborhood change when you decide to put your house up for sale? How do you interact with coworkers when you're a permanent employee vs a contractor brought in for a specific one-year project?)

It's also an interesting source of tension in a lot of fiction. Simon Tam is a short-timer; Kaylee is a long-timer. A lot of Mark Vorkosigan's character development in _Mirror Dance_ is about him transitioning from short-timer to long-timer in his relationship with just about everybody.

[1] He has claimed for years that he was sent to prison despite being innocent. When I first saw this, many years ago, I assumed that it was possible, but that if so, it was a very rare occurrence, like getting hit by lightning. More transparency and information about how the US justice system works hasn't made it look more reliable to me; now I wonder how many people walking around with criminal records are just as innocent, but not as bright and articulate and tech-savvy.

#123 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: August 03, 2015, 07:56 PM:

albatross #122: Re: Keith Lynch; even back then, the unusual part was, that it happened to a white guy. His account is plausible, and basically amounts to running afoul of a seriously criminal roommate.

#124 ::: John Mark Ockerbloom ::: (view all by) ::: August 03, 2015, 10:23 PM:

I too just read The Affinities (picked it up on Saturday and if I hadn't been quite so exhausted that night would have finished it the same day-- as it was, I read the last 30 pages or so on Sunday). Very well done, and reminded me of this conversation. (As well as things like Geek Social Fallacies, blind spots of "meritocracies" and other in-groups, the ways that loyalties can conflict with each other and with more fundamental human obligations, and various other things.)

I'd be interested in discussing it with other folks who have read it, or who don't mind spoilery bits. (The general arc of the book is not too hard to guess from the start; some of the specific plot turning points may be better off discovered in reading the book, but those might not be all that important for a general discussion of group dynamics in the book. I suppose we could revive the announcement thread from April if we get too worried about spoilers here, though.)

I'm particularly interested in the dynamics of the various groups featured in the novel, especially the one that the narrator joins near the start and the one that we get a glimpse of at the very end. The author doesn't go into a lot of detail about that last group, but it's clear that it's organized in a way that's intended to avoid some of the problems we see in groups featured earlier in the book, while also giving up some of the things that made some of those groups especially coherent and internally strong. It's clearly a group that readers sympathetic to the narrator would like to see thrive-- but will it? And how?

#125 ::: Mitchell ::: (view all by) ::: August 09, 2015, 08:45 PM:

Nice word.

One interesting frontier for community making is MOOCs, massive open online courses. Where community making is both critically important, and faced with an unfamiliar shape of constraints and opportunities.

Picture tens or hundreds or thousands of people, geographically-dispersed and culturally-heterogeneous, coming together to take a course. Many hours a week, over several months. And (currently) then dispersing. Taught by a team, that being familiar with education research, knows that peer-to-peer collaborative work is essential for successful learning.

So for instance, most all MOOCs have discussion forums. How do you build a forum community from scratch, with several hundred people, and within a week or two, have a culture that is supportive, empowering, engaging, and very non-toxic? How do you rapidly form norms, provide conduct exemplars, reinforce desired conduct and respond to undesired. Create opportunities for synergy? With the larger classes partitioned into smaller communities, how do you select and adjust the partitioning? How much and how do you try to engineer the personal support network that develops? Build partnerships, build teams? What do successful networks look like? How do you heal broken ones? Not lose people through cracks? And then, you get try it all again next semester. Across several hundred courses.

Try it again, in a well instrumented environment, with an analytic and continuous improvement culture. So you can actually measure, course by course, person by person, and day by day, what's working, and what isn't. Tactical and strategic analytics for teaching and community making. Though it's very not there yet.

It's early days, and who knows how the field will go, but for now, it looks like koinopoiēsis specialist might become a job description and research focus. There's certainly a big unexplored world of potential improvement.

#126 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: August 10, 2015, 02:00 PM:

Nancy Lebovitz @115: Yes, that is a marvelous talk. I was particularly fascinated by the qualitative difference she reports between her beta readers and her professional editors. (Part of the difference, I imagine, is that pro editors are used to dealing with Delicate Artistic Egos, whereas fans are "it's all just us," plus the collaborative impulse she points out.)

#127 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: August 10, 2015, 02:02 PM:

Mitchell: Is this your field of study? You've clearly done some thinking about it.

#128 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: August 10, 2015, 03:27 PM:

Mitchell @125:

Like many moderators, I've watched a lot of different sites take different approaches to the problem. There are always the outliers, but as far as the main line of moderation goes it's basically just a few things.

* visible moderation setting the tone, particularly in the early days before the backseat moderation starts
* clearly understood rules of behavior (this is not the same as clearly stated rules of behavior, mind.)
* some kind of persistent identity (not necessarily tied to wallet names)

I know communities that have two out of the three and are viable places that make the world a better place. I don't know of any with fewer than two of them that do, though.

MOOCs are a slightly different flavor of problem, because they renew on a regular basis and because they're purpose-driven. You'd have to tailor your ruleset to that purpose (including rules to prevent the kind of assertions of superiority through greater knowledge that squash learning like a bug).

The problem is that this kind of thing is (a) expensive, and (b) hard to quantify. How do you measure a good conversation? What metrics differentiate it from a bad one? I've played around with a few possibilities from time to time, but they were all—at best—ways of flagging conversation for human evaluation.

Which is to say, I'm watching new community formation opportunities with fascination.

#129 ::: dotless ı ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2015, 11:19 AM:

As mentioned elsewhere, I'm just catching up on things, but I love the word and the concept. Thanks, abi. Also, thanks to Stefan S and others for the "folding chairs" shorthand, which clicked immediately for me.

Looking at things through my own all-purpose metaphor of pilgrimage (yes, again; that's the thing about an all-purpose metaphor), I'm struck by the way that this process can be happening on multiple scales at the same time, with the same people: fractal koinopoiēsis. When walking on the Camino de Santiago there's a community formed every time you walk at the same pace as other people for a while; sometimes you and they will alter pace to make that last longer, and sometimes not. There's a community formed by the group settling into the same hostel for an evening (facilitated or not by the hospitalero, depending on the individual). Sometimes stronger individual bonds are formed, and these days emails or texts can help maintain the bonds even when pilgrims move at different speeds, leading to other overlapping communities. Meanwhile, you're always moving through and interacting with the fixed communities on the route, sometimes lightly and sometimes in significant ways.

There's also a feeling of community at a much larger scales: everyone walking the Camino at the same time winds up interacting indirectly, earlier pilgrims communicating with later ones (intentionally or not), or at least sharing the same experiences. There's also a shared culture (and shared language), passed along through other pilgrims, hostels, guidebooks, and local communities, linking the community of pilgrims in a year to the larger community of past and present pilgrims.

It's a bubbling stream, but the tiny bubbles, or the small clusters of long-term bonds, are the ones that most stick in my mind. Those are also the ones with the most visible koinopoiēsis.

#130 ::: Mitchell ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2015, 12:59 AM:

Jacque @ 126: Merely propinquity with MIT/EdX folks. I've a hobby interest in transformative improvement of science and engineering education (K-graduate).

I once saw a biology professor, from a one-university city, visiting Boston on sabbatical, with its many universities and teaching hospitals. They joyfully bounced up and down, exclaiming "there are so many talks to go to here, and so many people to speak with!".

abi @ 128:

The purposefulness does help. Staff participate in discussions, providing role models. And in the early days, they can be unusually active, setting tone. Also, forums might be seeded with exemplar threads, synthetic or selected from past terms.

Such staffing is indeed expensive. One challenge for MOOCs, is how to become economically sustainable, after the "let's explore; let's not be left behind" funding fades. One opportunity, is students' interest in coming back as volunteer mentors.

Quantification get's variously used for assessment, instructor feedback, community monitoring, process improvement, etc. It seems a rich mix of easy, hard, really hard, and human-required. What's somewhat new, and surprising, is how much leverage is available in artfully blending automation and humans and statistical process oversight. A fun example is a candy machine which bribes computer science undergraduates to grade introductory CS exams.

Participation in discussion is often a graded requirement. But as with the linked "Be appropriate" rule, anecdote suggests vague professorial "reasonable participation - I'll know when I see it", works better than numeric requirements. Intrinsic versus extrinsic motivation - explicit metrics get gamed, and when satisfied, participation drops. "Be reasonable" apparently results in notably more and better participation. So participation stats would only need to support an almost binary "was their participation reasonable?" human grading.

Watching that questions posted by students are replied to, and how rapidly, is easy. Recognizing whether they were correctly answered, needs humans. But tracking human "Thumbs Up" and "Staff Pick" clicks, is again easy.

Automated monitoring of tone is hard. But if it's merely used to nudge staff, to improve their reaction time, that's less hard: "automation to staff: fyi, this post just went up and it seemed maybe iffy. And it's from someone with past issues."

And so on. Fascinating indeed. Some fields feel like they've been wedged for years. Others, like there is freshening breeze of incoming future.

#131 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2015, 03:53 PM:


PRESIDENT PRO TEMPORE: *ahem*, if I could have your attention? I would like to entertain a motion to approve the agenda? Ah, yes, you in the red.

HE IN THE RED: According to Robert's, shouldn't we approve the minutes from last meeting first?

PPT: Ah, good question. However there are no minutes from the last meeting as there was no last meeting. This ancient and venerable body has never existed--much less met--before, nor shall ever exist again.

HE IN THE RED: Well I still think--

PPT: So, moving on. The agenda:
1. a minute in silence, admiring the effect of the rising sun cutting through the fog
2. officer's reports
3. some murmured remarks about the weather to those nearby
4. a moment of astonishment at the sight of a heron flying low and heavy above the still water
5. new business

All in favor, please stand in stillness, feeling the motion of the ferry underfoot. Unanimous, excellent.

HE IN THE RED: What about--

PPT: Nearly unanimous, then. Er, you in the handsome coat?

SHE IN THE HANDSOME COAT: Hi, yes, hello all. So good to see you. Um. I would like to move to nominate the heron as a member of the Order? As it is quite beautiful, and without it this morning would not be what it is.

PPT: I shall take that as a motion. Any seconds to include the heron in our company? Thank you, the man in purple sneakers. Any discussion?

HE IN THE RED: I don't really see the point of including the heron. How would it even vote?

SHE IN THE HANDSOME COAT: I suppose that if the heron felt sufficiently strongly about something, some method of communication could be found.

THE MAN IN THE PURPLE SNEAKERS: In all fairness, the fellow at the rail muttering to himself hasn't contributed much either.

PPT: Good points, all. Any other comments?



HE IN THE RED: Wait now--

PPT: Alright, we have a motion before us. All those in favor, breathe deeply of the crisp early morning air. Mmhm. Mmhm. It looks like the Ayes have it.

Oh look at that. Here comes the dock. I suppose we have no other choice but to table the remainder of our agenda until our next meeting, which shall never occur. This community, this us, is as ephemeral as the fog which names us. In moments we shall burn away and while something much similar will no doubt come again, this momentary fellowship shall hold only seconds more. Move to adjourn?



#132 ::: Cadbury Moose ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2015, 04:00 PM:

Heresiarch @ #131

Round of applause.
Square of applause.
Irregular lump with some sort of knob on the end of applause.

I believe this internet now belongs to you, please treasure it and use it wisely (not that you would use it any other way, of course).

#133 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2015, 04:35 PM:

Heresiarch (131): I see that Cadbury already gave you an internet. Would you like another? I seem to have one here with your name on it.

#134 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2015, 04:50 PM:

heresiarch @131:


#135 ::: Annie Y ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2015, 05:20 PM:

heresiarch @131

Very nice. Poor chap in the red. :)

#136 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2015, 05:56 PM:

heresiarch @131 -- appreciations from this quarter as well.

#137 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2015, 02:36 AM:

Thank you all for your kind words!

#138 ::: Edmund Schweppe ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2015, 11:04 AM:

heresiarch @131: Nice!

#139 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: August 20, 2015, 02:06 PM:

Catching up. I like this conversation. I like this place.

I may even have a sense of my place in it (though mostly from my returns after hiatus. I do think (from my goings and comings) that it is much of a muchness. The strand of community which runs through it, is strong.

I would say that I carry some of it with me everywhere I go on the web, because the model (if not always the practice) is precious to me.

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