*CoP’s in this instance means ‘Communities of Practice.
Once again I was doing some light reading over the past week, this time the book was Communities of Practice: Learning, Meaning, and Identity by Etienne Wenger. (Side note, I am happy for the use of the Oxford comma. But every once in awhile I would like to see things written with the Walken comma ie. Communities, of Practice…)
The four premises in a community of practice (CoP) are
- We are social beings – Key word “Social”
- Knowledge is a matter of competence with respect to valued enterprise. – Key words “Valued enterprise”
- Knowledge is a matter of participating in the pursuit of such enterprises. – Key word “participating”
- Meaning is ultimately what learning is to produce. – Key word “Meaning”
Without writing an essay on what all of this means, I am going to attempt to sum it up in the easiest way I can. A community of practice is a number of individuals tied together in a non-formal way, all working towards or within the same frame of thought. An example of a community of practice would be doctors, or to be more specific, say hip surgeons. Hip surgeons all have a common set of knowledge and are working towards more knowledge or skill in the work of hip surgery. Each of these individuals are actively involved in the world of hip surgery. These individuals do not meet together, or get together for BBQ’s, nor do they join a hip surgeon club, however each of them share a common practice. Within this community, there is a sharing of knowledge and resources. While this is not required, it tends to happen organically.
The idea of a community of practice got me thinking about areas of my life in which a community of practice should be, but isn’t. Outside of the chocolate industry I am also actively involved in theatre, video production, and education. While there is a thriving CoP in education and theatre, there is little to be said about video production. From my experience, individuals involved in video production are not as open to sharing knowledge or resources as one might hope. I think much of this has to do with the highly competitive nature of making a living with video production. At one point in time (not too long ago) few people were considered professional video producers. Few could afford a high-end camera and editing gear, now it is a much different story. The days of the select few owning professional video gear are over! Everybody has professional video equipment and editing software in their mobile phone. This, in a way, has broken the coherence that must exist within a CoP. Wenger states that learning in practice involves evolving forms of mutual engagement, and I do not see this nearly as clearly as I do within the other areas of my life.
There are indeed areas within the video production world where shared engagement takes place. I do not want people to think I am missing that. Many video production companies come together to create a shared project, and a place such as the Community Media Access Collaborative brings students and professionals together every day. However these are formed groups working on a project, and that directly excludes them from being a CoP.
A change is happening within the video production world, much of it has to do with the fast pace of innovation (HEY! Now that’s a CoP I could talk about!), I can only hope that the individuals involved in this practice would begin to share knowledge. Maybe they already are, and I just haven’t found my way into the community hmmm. Either way, that’s fine with me.
Wenger, Etienne. (1999). Communities of Practice: Learning, Meaning, and Identity