[SLED] 'Purpose' of the List

Jeremy Hunsinger jhuns at vt.edu
Fri Aug 10 07:19:37 PDT 2007

>  Furthermore, from the first sociological definition of community  
> made by Galpin in 1915 until the most recent analysis of Putnam,  
> Beem or Ridley, going through Buber or Cohen, the issue of whether  
> a community needs a purpose or not has not been clearly established  
> and therefore, it is not something as settled as allowing educators  
> to make such a bold statement denying the need of purpose.

I motion that denying the need for common purpose is a settled issue.

I also take issue with the conceptualization of community that  
requires common purpose.  The sole determination of community that i  
can see is 'common location'  from which any internal or external  
participant may thenceforth make any inference about the existence of  
community or not.

> As for this particular list and "purpose" discussion, again, I need  
> to remind that it started with a question whether it was only about  
> education or not, and that was it. The question originated because  
> I entered into the list expecting to find discussions about  
> technical and pedagogical issues on teaching in SL (there are  
> plenty of those),

actually... while there are technological issues... they are sort of  
brute fact pointless along the lines of 'what can i do with this  
rock' type issues.  Unless  you are a programmer of course, then...  
it is more of, perhaps i can do x with y if i first build z type  
issues.  In either case, the 'technological' issues are pretty moot.

The pedagogical issues are too given the fact that most of what  
people seem to be doing in terms of pedagogy and curriculum on the  
list falls into the general theory of 'it seemed to work for my  
class'  or 'i have proof that this works'.   Sometimes we do get more  
depth, but most of the pedagogical work in sl is still, much like it  
is still on the web, doing what feels right, which... for the most  
part, means replicating forms that we have become familiar with or  
normalized into, or otherwise part of.

This is not to say that it is wrong or problematic, it is just to say  
what tends to be the case, which is actually quite good within some  

Now, we could go on discussing these things at length, but that is  
what we have blogs for... this is just an email list.

> and some of the postings seemed to be quite off-topic, and the  
> question was properly answered when Ed said, the list is what the  
> list does (or something like that), which I understood and accepted  
> (if no, I could always leave it).
> What I think is unacceptable is the desire of some of the members  
> to preclude certain type of discussions about purpose just because  
> they don't like it and use completely fascist arguments, like "you  
> can leave the list" or things like that or "discussing about this  
> things are not good". Who elected them as judges?

I nominate ed to be judge, and i nominate bruce to lead our tribunal  
on the social good of the list.

The thing is... that this isn't a democracy or even a consensus  
system... the list is just a list, it has administrators, which I am  
sure would act if the need arose, but other than that, the community  
decides.  Now as it is a list, it is opt in, which means you can opt  
out.  The motivation for opting in is curiosity and contribution  
usually, the motivations for opting out are significantly more  
plural.   To suggest to someone that ... if they don't like it, they  
can leave, is not fascism, it isn't even authoritarianism.... it is  
liberalism.  You are free to choose.  If you choose to stay, you get  
certain benefits and certainly some negatives, but hey.... that's  
life.  If you don't like it, you have other options.

So in fact... the person who was being elected as judge in a liberal  
and free society.... is you.  The burden of judgment is awesome though.

Jeremy Hunsinger
Information Ethics Fellow, Center for Information Policy Research,  
School of Information Studies, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee  

Words are things; and a small drop of ink, falling like dew upon a  
thought, produces that which makes thousands, perhaps millions,  
think. --Byron

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