Intellectual Exchange as a Medium for Community Building
On the Web and Beyond

Paul Grobstein
Director, Center for Science in Society, Bryn Mawr College
Co-founder, Serendip website

25th Anniversary Friends Association for Higher Education Conference
"Centering on the Edge: Intellect, Spirit, Action"
Haverford College

"We Make the Road by Walking"
A Panel Discussion on
Synchronous and Asynchronous Uses of the Web for Educational Purposes
17 June 2005


Life is not really so difficult if you just follow the instructions
"Born in 1994 ... conceived as a interacting and developing system, not unlike a living organism ..."

"Serendip is ... a gathering place for people who suspect that life's instructions are always ambiguous and incomplete ... an expanding forum and continually developing set of resources to explore and support intellectual and social change in education, in social organization ... and in how one makes sense of life"

What has Serendip learned, about itself? about the world around it? Or, more accurately, what have I, as one of its parents, learned from watching it grow/evolve?

The Potential ("people can develop their ideas and perspectives in extensive interaction with other people")
and the Naive Ideal

Build it (a rich interactive playground) and they will come.
  • Non-profit
  • Asynchronous (stop by any time)
  • Community not as origin, possibly as consequence?

Some Do ... But Lots Don't (Yet?) ... Why?

Contributors: Visitors: Barriers to "interchange" ... on Serendip? on web? in general?
(Some lessons from recent Serendip exhibits and forums)

Many of these things occur automatically in existing communities and in face to face interactions occuring synchrononously (on the web or not). And we can try to find ways to do them more effectively on Serendip and on the web generally.

But there is something to be said for the additional distinctive kinds of interaction that the web makes possible ... and for evolving human interactions generally in new ways based on those experiences ...

General lessons from the web about building communities anywhere

Contribute your thoughts to further exploration of these issues?

Some relevant recent Serendip exhibits and forums

Post presentation thoughts

"What IS Serendip for?" Does it NEED to be "for" something? Other than evolving/exploring? As a child? an adolescent? an adult? (further evolve home page?)

"Barriers to exchange" characterized by one participant as "adolescence". Raises a host of interesting issues. How much of S experience has to do with populations it works with? How much is the diagnosis of adolescence a characteristic of academic populations? of US populations? of world populations? What in addition to the down sides of adolescence are the up sides?


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