|“||[A community is] a network where everyone is holding everyone’s hand, which prevents them from falling down. To build a net where everyone is holding everyone else, and people won't easily fall out. That's community and community building .||”|
Psychologists Baumeister and Leary argue that “the need to belong” is a basic human need, something that all humans share. They argue that this feeling of “belonging” must be cultivated through frequent, positive interactions with the same individuals, where everyone recognizes that these interactions are building toward a long-term relationship (rather than a temporary or transactional relationship).
So in many ways, “belonging” is facilitated by “connection”: as we connect with others in a group, we are cultivating the belief that “I belong here.”
Whether or not we are aware of this “need to belong”, we all know the difference between the feelings of “I belong here” and “I don't belong here”. The former may be associated with joy, shared purpose, or peace, whereas the later may be associated with fear, anger, or sadness. The emotional rollercoaster of finding your place within a group can be exhausting, and it’s only become harder as people form intersecting communities online and offline.
Via the internet, we can now meet and interact in ways previously impossible, and build community with people we might never see in person. But the burden is primarily on the individual to create a space in which they can form lasting relationships. The only alternative is to join a space that’s already formed and hope for the best. And given how toxic the internet can be, joining an unknown online space can be daunting.
|“||A Pew Research Center survey published two years ago found that 70% of 18-to-24-year-olds who use the Internet had experienced harassment, and 26% of women that age said they'd been stalked online. This is exactly what trolls want. A 2014 study published in the psychology journal Personality and Individual Differences found that the approximately 5% of Internet users who self-identified as trolls scored extremely high in the dark tetrad of personality traits: narcissism, psychopathy, Machiavellianism and, especially, sadism.||”|
|— Joel Stein|
Wikimedia Taiwan knows that while “community” is built on trust, connection and belonging, those aspects need to be actively pursued. One way they do this is by creating [[m:Wikimedia Taiwan/A Room of WikiWomen's Own |A Room of WikiWomen's Own]], in coordination with Taiwan Women's Free Software Working Group and the Taiwanese WikiWomen community.
Based on the quote from Virgina Woolf - [[en:A Room of One's Own |"A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction”]] - the WikiWomen room is a simple concept: create a safe space for women to write on Wikipedia. Such a tactic has become more prevalent in recent years as online harassment becomes widely acknowledged, but it’s rare to find such space (online or offline) in Wikimedia and especially in Taiwan. The idea came from a simple question: how can Wikimedia Taiwan create an community or an atmosphere where women felt safe and welcomed? An atmosphere where women didn't have to fear belonging?
|“||Most of the community meetups are males, and you can hardly see females in the community meetups. It creates an atmosphere that people are very familiar with, with masculine talk. [For example] how to pick up girls, judging girls they see, about boobs, or porn videos In that space, it becomes very difficult for women to talk, to become part of the community. That’s part of the reason women didn’t want to join.||”|
The WikiWomen room opened in 2015, as a free, welcoming meetup space for people who identify as women. The ultimate vision - one that has been realized over the last 3 years - is to to create a community of people who identify as women, edit Wikimedia projects, and help each other feel welcome within the greater Wikimedia movement.
Part of their success in holding this space and creating such a community has been to actively encourage members to share about all aspects of their life, not just their contribution to Wikimedia. Whether those are issues in their professional or personal lives, all topics are greeted with a supportive atmosphere. Because of this, Wikimedia Taiwan has noticed that Wikiwomen meetups are more diverse than their other meetups, and that participants attend more regularly. Whereas regular meetup participants are mainly from the technology industry or are engineering students, the women involved with Wikiwomen are administrators, dancers, small business owners and tv soap opera writers.
Because of this diversity of professional backgrounds, a those who come to the WikiWomen room contribute a different set of knowledge to Wikipedia, for example the entries on Xie Yuchun, Taiwan female communication scholar, popular science editor.
|“||Frankly whenever I got to a foreign environment I get scared. But when I enter a Wikiwomen space, the gentle atmosphere, knowing people for so long and the different backgrounds to share about life and Wikipedia. You open up your mind.||”|
|— A WikiWomen member who regularly returns to the WikiWomen room|
Successful community building is often thought of in terms of growth, such as more people or greater capacity. But ultimately, the very idea of community - of being a part of a community - is built on the underlying values of belonging, identity, connection, and trust.
For User:Imacat, the founder of WikiWomen Taiwan, these values were the most important aspects to cultivate; the articles on Wikipedia were secondary. This focus on trust has lead WikiWomen participants to not just edit Wikipedia, but take on more active roles within Wikimedia Taiwan and the greater Wikimedia movement, space in which they were previously absent. They’ve become board members of Wikimedia Taiwan, organizers of events, and agents of policy change on Wikipedia. All while continuing to hold WikiWomen as their own, and deepen their community ties.
They’ve built a community in WikiWomen, and they intend to keep it a safe, welcoming, healthy place.
Now that you've read this case study, consider...
- ↑ Baumeister, R. F., & Leary, M. R. (1995). The need to belong: desire for interpersonal attachments as a fundamental human motivation. Psychological bulletin, 117(3), 497.
- ↑ http://time.com/4457110/internet-trolls/