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Bridging and BONDOing DS106Radio

March 24, 2011

Recently D’Arcy Norman (a comrade I met via DS106Radio), in his blog post on acceptance in freeform, provided the grounding texts (initial tweets and his blog post) for a conversation about openness and the web that looks to DS106Radio as a case study.

I cannot offer up any arguments against the positions presented in the comments because I agree with the vast majority of them. My disagreements fall into the category of nit-pickery and of little interest to me right now.

Instead of pickin’ nits (gross), I’d like to submit a couple points to ponder related to the role of the individual within an affinity space (as described by James Paul Gee) such as DS106Radio.

If we imagine DS106Radio, including its varied and various web-based companions e.g., ds106, twitter, various blog posts, wikis, tumblrs, etc., as a context rich with teaching and learning, then we should also imagine it to be a space laden with the accompanying vulnerabilities.

Someone dissing my song choice or feeling frustrated for weeks and venting on twitter (which happened to me related to the failed Papaya update on my iphone4) are two examples that highlight the potential for getting my feelings hurt as a result of my participation in the affinity space that is DS106Radio. I do not  pretend that emotions are not a part of cognition–we are always at once thinking and feeling. Cognition and emotion are interdependent. Thus as an adult who has voluntarily associated myself with DS106Radio, it is up to me to tend to my own overall well-being, and that of my comrades, as much or as little as I feel personally responsible.

The last sentiment being most important because it makes explicit my personal freedom to be brutish or kind, sincere or sarcastic, or something and everything in between whenever I choose. Everyone has the same freedoms to uniquely exercise each time they make a contribution to DS106Radio by DJing, providing technical support and resources, encouragement, initiating live mayhem, etc.

One way to make sense of the varying and various types of individual contributions folks make to DS106Radio, and affinity spaces in general, is by considering Bruce Putnam’s (2000) work related to social capital (referenced in relation to online communities by Pippa Noris).

I’m not wed to Putnam’s overall thesis regarding social capital, but there are two constructs, “bridging” and “bonding,” he employs that believe provide one way to make meaning of the role of an individual within an affinity space.

Bridgers are folks who forge connections between other folks, and even between the community itself and/or its members and non-human resources. One example, among many to choose from, would be Grant Potter. Grant is a master bridger and works not only to provide DS106Radio participants with resources, but also connects the station to other streaming radio communities like WFMU and WMWC, and much more. Norris (2004) describes bridging necessary, and more likely to occur, between socially and ideologically heterogeneous groups. Bridgers clear pathways and ford streams to connect their wide-ranging and diverse networks together in useful ways. Everyone, including themselves, benefit from their connections, and from their efforts to encourage collaboration and harmony between people, and between people and non-human affordances.

By your assessment, do you find this to be true about the way the folks who might inhabit the role of “bridgers” on DS106Radio operate within the community? How does a bridger contribute to the openness of the affinity space? What are the downsides of bridging?

Bonders are those folks who work to deepen contact with people who have similar interests or beliefs (Norris, 2004). hmmm. Who would be a good example of a bonder on DS106Radio? Jim Groom, the man we think of when we hear “Can You Dig It?!” when we tune into the station? Indeed, Jim is the Master Blaster and a master bonder. He rallies the troops, uses the word AWESOME with more fervor and sincerity than anyone I’ve ever heard, and he insists “DS106Radio FOR LIFE!”

Bonders are not just cheerleaders. They are heralds who insert energy into the feedback loop(s) between the members of a community. Comments such as, “Did you see X’s picture of that robot? It was AWESOME!” serve many necessary purposes, including bonding the group together through shared interests and positive reinforcement. Bonders also help the group carry-on traditions, establish protocols, and perform the work of reinforcing connections within a group. Think Bondo.

My sense is rather than a typology, bridging and bonding are roles folks play depending on the context. A person could have a tendency to serve as a bridger within many different affinity spaces, however may behave like a bonder in others.  What do you think?

Across the couple of months I’ve been involved with the station, my role has changed many times, sometimes with a given day I have been a midwife, collaborator, cheerleader, creator, performer, lurker, heckler, bonder, even Wendy to the Lost Boys, etc.

What is informing the fluidity I sense and the freedom I feel to play all those roles and more?

I contend it is openness. Not the openness of the web or of online radio, or the systems and protocols that have evolved during DS106Radio’s existence over time that allow for easy participation. Neither is it the affinity space as a context, nor the community in its entirety (no matter how bridged or bonded it seems).

The openness of DS106Radio comes from the acts of its individual members. On our best days, we extend ourselves when we can by inviting each other to contribute and we encourage new comers to join in the fun. (See Lave and Wenger’s (1991) work on communities of practice including the role of the “new comer” and “old timer” within in an affinity space.)

Affinity spaces, like DS106Radio, need bridgers, bonders, mayhem-makers, lurkers, Lost Boys and Girls, pirates, cheerleaders, leaders, exemplary followers, station managers, hackers, listeners, makers, breakers, futzers, and all other types of characters to keep the station dynamic, creative, inspiring, and broadcasting.

BOTTOM LINE: We need a motley crew to keep DS106Radio afloat. The more the merrier, Yo Ho!

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. March 24, 2011 1:52 am

    GNA, It’s so great to read you beyond 140 characters, especially on this topic.

    I’m glad you decided to create your own post instead of relegating this to the comment section of D’Arcy’s post about exploding ovaries.

    You ask some insightful questions that I will have to think over & contemplate and hopefully be able to give a response worthy of those big Qs.

  2. March 24, 2011 10:47 am

    oh, sure. you take my trivial little piece of snark navel-gazing, and turn it into an intellectual and well-reasoned description of social cohesion. yeesh. I’ll just slink away into the corner 😉

    Thank you for framing the nature of the various roles this way. Bridgers. Bonders. And an uncountable array of Others. Fantastic.

    We are a ragtag fleet, searching for home. A place called… Earth.

    OK. I officially watched too much Battlestar Galactica as a kid…

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