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[xmca] Is Class an "Imagined" Community?

Is "class" an "imagined" community? If so, what about the family? Are they "imagined" in the same way as a nation? Or the so-called "world community" (a.k.a. the USA and its motley stooges, satraps, and dupes).
One of the things I've learned from reading Jonathan Tudge's brilliant new synthesis of his old studies on how children live their everyday lives around the world is that some imagined communities are a whole lot more real than others. 
For example, it turns out that American middle class children do NOT actually get more academic instruction or even academic play or even more toys than other city dwellers around the world. And it turns out that urban Korean kids spend MORE time at play than kids in any of the other "imagined" communities that Jon and his grads studied. 
I imagine that whether your parents are country mice or city mice makes much more of a difference in determining your day to day activities, your access to play and to conversation, and probably, ultimately, you real (not imagined) life expectancy. 
And of course I confess to being one of the reactionaries that Jay talks about below. It seems to me that there is an implicit formalism, even a structuralism, here; Jay is trying to argue that somehow the content of human communication is absolutely independent of the medium in which it takes place.
Compare, for just a moment, a round the world trip in an airplane with the same trip on foot or by bicycle or hitch-hiking. Surely the two experiences are different in some qualitative way, and the potential experiences are even more different than the real ones. The human scenery one experiences will be even more different than the topological one. 
As a Singaporean artist wrote, "difference is simulated by the selective intensification of similarities". Airplane travel is an essentially virtual, "imagined" experience, bearing a largely imaginary relationship to actual displacement. Is it really an accident that the "culture" of airports and first class lounges stinks of money and mediocrity, and will not linger in the memory at journey's end? 
David Kellogg
Seoul National University of Education 

--- On Wed, 4/7/10, Jay Lemke <jaylemke@umich.edu> wrote:

From: Jay Lemke <jaylemke@umich.edu>
Subject: Re: [xmca] FW: ScienceDaily: Online interactions have positive effects for real-life communities
To: "eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity" <xmca@weber.ucsd.edu>
Date: Wednesday, April 7, 2010, 8:40 PM

One person's zinger is another's "of course", of course. :-)

A similar notion is one I've thought with for some time in relation to the, more of less pointless I think, debates about "real" vs "virtual" communities. I pretty much assign this discussion now to the dustbin of reactionary reactions to online communities, as the argument is mostly the reactionaries (OK, I could be nice and call them "traditionalists" ) saying that it's terrible that people, especially young people, are so enmeshed in online virtual communities that they might be spending less time in "real" ones. Like classrooms? the virtues of "real", i.e. face-to-face, meat-space communities elude me ... they are mostly institution-centric, boring, exploitative, routininzed, etc. In any case, the virtues, when they are found usually have little to do with the face-to-face nature (apart from subtlety of communicative resources, which are not often crucial), and more to do with matters of respect, trust, voicing unusual or new ideas, opinions,
 reactions, etc. Of course we are mostly culturally forbidden from actually leveraging the unique resource of FTF communities: touching one another.

But the trumping argument for me has always been that so-called "real" communities are just as "virtual" (i.e. "imagined" as Emily reports) as any online community. That is to say, what matters about them is far more on the "ideal" than the material plane, far more about how they immerse us in "figured" worlds, wrought with meanings and feelings, expectations and surprises ... regardless of their material basis (calling across a room or chatting online).

What makes a bunch of people "a community" is precisely how their imaginations intersect and set one another off. And if we choose to go so far as to "identify" with a community, then that too is pretty clearly an act of imagination, and not simply a declaration that we are in the room.

And some of our "communities" require quite a leap of the imagination, too. The idea that a large nation-state is a community is quite a stretch, I think. Far more so than that xmca is a community. Even that a city is a community, rather than, more sensibly, an ecology of interdependent communities. But the human imagination knows no sensible limits. And its political exploitation has a long and glorious history.

Thank God we can continue to imagine not just new communities, but new kinds of communities.

Thanks, Emily, for the reminder!


Jay Lemke
Professor (Adjunct, 2009-2010)
Educational Studies
University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, MI 48109

Visiting Scholar
Laboratory for Comparative Human Cognition
University of California -- San Diego
La Jolla, CA
USA 92093

On Apr 6, 2010, at 10:12 AM, Duvall, Emily wrote:

> Hi All, 
> This just came out and the summary on this site has a few interesting
> statements, particularly this last one:
> "To a certain degree, all communities are 'imagined communities' -- that
> is, our sense of being part of a community is always something we must
> create in ourselves, and it often occurs through media."
> I thought this might be of interest to some xmca-ers.... I know that
> this last statement is quite a zinger for me. Not so much our sense of
> being a part of a community, but that communities are imagined. 
> ~em
> Online interactions have positive effects for real-life communities
> http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/04/100405131730.htm 
> Online interactions not only have positive outcomes for real-life,
> place-based communities, but the intersection between online
> communication and the offline world also forms two halves of a support
> mechanism for communities, according to a new study.
> _______________________________________________
> xmca mailing list
> xmca@weber.ucsd.edu
> http://dss.ucsd.edu/mailman/listinfo/xmca

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