Cookies in the Lounge! What The College Dorm Can Teach Us About Building Community Online

cookie_with_bite“Door decs” with your name on it… Crafting in the lobby… An icebreaker where you rhyme your name with a vegetable… you might be surprised by how a college Resident Assistant (RA) goes about building and maintaining community.  Of course, the RA position is far more complex than the stereotype that often gets portrayed, or the hokey activities that are often the source of satire, but some of this “hokiness” is there because it works… and yes, some of it is just hokey.

One of the current courses I am taking at Boston College is MI621: Social Media for Managers in of the Caroll School of Management. During a recent meeting of the course, we heard from Jen Reddy, the Senior Vice President for Global Marketing from Communispace.  Communispace is an innovative marketing and research firm that crates online “communities of insight” comprised of customers and demographic groups that advise client companies on numerous issues. Although an oversimplification, these communities act like extended focus groups that can be mined for qualitative feedback and ideas. Their unique community nature provides more powerful and different insights than might be generated through other methods.

Listening to Jen speak got me thinking about my past work in residence life and how principles of community building in those contexts might carry over to online communities. I was excited to discover that much of what some of the Community Managers at Communispace do in creating insight communities was eerily similar to what I’ve spent 10 years advising undergraduates and professionals to carry out.
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Bowling Leagues, Cheers Bar, and Central Perk: Cultivate a Third Place, Cultivate Your Brand

norm cheersIn his 1989 work, The Great Good Place, Ray Oldenburg floated the idea of our needing a “third place.” Our first place is our home, where we live. Our second place is our work, where we spend a large portion of our time. Our “third place,” however, is an informal space that brings us together in community and where we interact with others and build social bonds. Classic “third places” in pop culture have included the bar from the television show Cheers and Central Perk, the coffee shop from Friends. At our colleges and universities, these may include dining halls, student unions, student activity offices or residence hall lounges.  These third places are important because they serve as anchors in civic society. They create spaces where “regulars” can meet to build relationships, develop community and join in conversation. They create an opportunity to connect with, build empathy for, and bond with fellow citizens outside of the confines of our family and work relationships.

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The Thrill of Victory, Agony of Defeat: Presenting PechaKucha Style at #ACPA13

PK-Cyborg.keyIt’s almost time for our PechaKucha experiment at the 2013 ACPA National Convention!  Ed CabellonPatrick LoveKristen Renn and I have been hard at work designing and rehearsing (and rehearsing, and rehearsing…) to get our presentations ready to go and out timing right.  Believe me, it’s harder than you might think.  (Some of my previous blog posts on the topic can be found here and here.)

For those of you heading to Las Vegas next week, please join us for our session:

The Future of Student Affairs in Six Minutes and Forty Seconds
Wednesday, March 6, Noon-1:00pm PST
Planet Hollywood – Celebrity Ballroom 2

If you are not attending ACPA, you can also participate by following out Twitter backchannel at #ACPAPK.

TEASER ALERT!  The following is the opening slide deck for our presentation.  This will give you an overview of PechaKucha and what we’ve prepared.  Below that, I’ve also uploaded a video version of my PechaKucha presentation.  It won’t mean much without my talking over it, but it will give you an idea as to what to expect. Enjoy!

The Cult of the Like and The Millennial Generation

Social networking LIKEOne of the more interesting phenomena I’ve come across in some of my research on college student interactions through social media is something I call the “Cult of the Like.” The “Like,” or the “Favorite,” or whatever your preferred social media network happens to call it, is a way of indicating agreement, acknowledgement, or affinity for a social media posting. Facebook’s own help section describes it as follows:

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I’d Like to Buy My Staff a Coke: Getting Them to Sing in Perfect Harmony


Social media and Web 2.0 technologies have changed the way we collaborate and come together for collective action.  Additionally, they are enabling us to achieve feats of unprecedented size and scale.  They are helping us search for cures to cancer, they have allowed us to create a comprehensive world encyclopedia, and they have even toppled entire governments.  Key to understanding and harnessing collaboration and collective action, however, is that these efforts should be goal-driven, not tool-driven, and that they all need not look the same.  Understanding these two points can allow us to transform organizational cultures, goals, and actions.

The World Singing in Perfect Harmony

In 1971, the Coca-Cola Company introduced its iconic “Hilltop” commercial, with the now famous lines: “I’d like to Teach the World to Sing in Perfect Harmony, I’d Like to Buy the World to Coke, and keep it company.” Bill Backer, one of the originators of the commercial, was on a flight to London, when the plane was diverted to Ireland due to inclement weather.  The upset and angry passengers were forced to spend the night in the airport.  The next day, however, they were bonding and laughing together while drinking Coke.  This situation stuck Backer and he recalled:
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