A Brief History of Community

If you have not yet heard about Community – that most famous and intriguing of open conferences on FirstClass – you soon will. The concept of "Community" pre-dates FirstClass: Wellesley has had an all-campus discussion forum since the 1990s (the earliest, clunkiest days of electronic communication). In those days the forum was called Public, and had become such an important campus tradition that when FirstClass replaced our old system in 1999, many faculty and students welcomed the shift only if we could retain Public.

With FirstClass, Public got a new name in tune with the times – and thus "Community" entered our community. Although our research has shown us that only 6-7% of all students claim to read and post regularly to Community, conversations that occur on this forum have a way of rippling through the entire campus; Community does seem to function as a site of public argument for the Wellesley College community. Students are often taken off-guard by the effect that a seemingly innocent post produces, perhaps because they don't realize quite how public this space is. The Netiquette Guidelines were written with Community in mind. Through their posts on Community, students often develop a campus-wide reputation ("the pink-font girl" – or worse), and a new lexicon of friendship and reputation has developed ("I First-Class love her" or "I FirstClass hate her" or "she's one of my FirstClass friends"). Across campus, people distinguish between events that occur on "Community-capital-C" as opposed to those that happen in "community-small-c."

The Mellon Committee has hosted several open forums (dubbed "FaceTime Sessions") that allow people who know each other only via Community to meet each other F2F and sort out disputes on Community; in fact, "face-time" sessions of various sorts have become a common way of addressing irresolvable problems that sometimes arise on Community. See our FaceTime page for taped extracts from one of these sessions, in which faculty notables discussed their conception of Community.

What kind of community do we want to be?

WCPSC Faculty Director: Wini Wood
Maintained by: Anne Manning
Date Created: 25 August 2008
Last Modified: 25 August 2008
Expires: 31 December 2009