(NOTE: I’m moderating a panel at SXSW called "Community Ecology: Finding Balance When Working with Fan Groups". As I prepare my notes and thoughts, I’m going to be blogging more on this subject)
I’ve discovered over the years that there’s nothing better for introducing people to community interaction concepts than a good analogy. I’ve used many over the years, some of which have been documented here, others soon to be.
One of the more significant analogies is that of the Social Community Ecology. Why ecology? Ecology is:
the study of the inter-relationships between organisms and their environment
Or more specifically with our own version I call Social Community Ecology:
The study of the inter-relationships between community members and their social environment
Why is this important?
Because social communities are a type of ecosystem. They have many of the same markers as any other ecosystem, say a forest or a pond.
Of these markers, there in particular stand out when talking about the social community ecosystem:
Balance – there’s a certain ongoing ebb and flow to a healthy ecosystem. There is a constant equilibrium that the ecosystem seeks, and when radical change occurs, the system works to balance that change against the issues that might offset it.
Interconnection – With ever action is a reaction within the ecosystem because every entity is connected, directly or indirectly, with every other entity.
Life – Ecosystems are about living things, but they themselves are also living things. There’s a constant evolution and change process happening right before our eyes. It may sometimes be hard to see it without a trained eye, but life is there. The life of an ecosystem can take on a life cycle of growth and death, or it can simply continue to grow and change over time. In theory, a well-balanced ecosystem will continue to evolve and grow as time moves on, evolving and changing, but never really dying completely. But insert radical change into the system and you can often overwhelm the balancing mechanisms of the ecosystem, throwing it into a death spiral.
Ecosystems are a powerful force, strong and robust. But they’re all incredible fragile at times. In upcoming posts, I’ll be talking about the "natural disasters" of a social community ecosystem, as well as methods for finding balance within an ecosystem where company and community work and play in the same space. Stay tuned!