Truth be told I have also struggled and tried to make this definition work, but to little avail.
This might get long, because I guess I have nothing else to do on a Friday night, and, Ironically given the subject matter, I feel I’m among nerd-kin…
Emotionally I know that this definition…
…is a no-brainer - communities have “emergent properties” when humans act in specific ways to create them. Still, I never liked putting that feeling into a definition. This approach unsettles me from an anthropological perspective even if it warms my heart spiritually and emotionally.
Recognizing the ivory-tower in this statement, the idea that a community is “more than the sum of its parts” feels very floaty to me. Yes, it is certainly an inarguable fact that community cannot be defined in totality, but floaty is usually viewed as a hint to test more than it is a grounded statement in Anthropology. Could this fact simply be the resulting feeling of a good community? There can be bad communities—simply because they lack this pervasive reality, even if they hit on everything else to some extent.
Similar to @rosiesherry 's concern with belonging and relationships, it feels like we are defining the community as the result of mechanisms present, but not wholly accounted for.
To dive further into the rabbit hole…
Let’s say we try to make this work, the same way Biology tries to make this work.
The phrase “emergent properties” is frequently used in Biology classes to represent the collaborative functions of biological cells or tissues we do not understand yet.
A look at the accepted definitions of “emergent properties,” are:
“a characteristic that any entity gains when it becomes part of a bigger system.”
“A set of described properties that arise through interactions among smaller parts, that alone does not exhibit such properties.”
Primary examples in biology are tissue matrixes and nerve clusters. The nerve cell doesn’t have the capacity to move a muscle, but in combination with the surrounding cellular complexes, it can create a stupid amount of force and move a human arm.
So while different cells in a biological “system” are not on their own or in sum capable of the force, leverage, and energy required to make a human, they can nonetheless.
You can repeat this again with the gut microbiome and again with the biggest problem - the emergent properties of a brain that produces conciousness.
Now, applying this definition back to community…
When I bring Biology’s definitions into the context of a community, I feel like I get nowhere. Just like Neuro-biologists are getting nowhere all that fast with human consciousness.
What these definitions DO achieve, however, is create a ridiculously powerful thought engine for asking questions and exploring the problem space. I mean, just follow any line of questions starting with an emergent property and there’s loads of new research to be done.
The same happens with Community, so perhaps it’s more useful to think of emergent community traits as a question than a definition.
Combining this question with the definition I provided above…
[…] attitudes, values, goals, experiences, practices, and artifacts […]
I feel like I’ve introduced a factor I’ll never be able to identify no matter how hard I try, and yet, I will forever have a community to research. That’s very useful to a community professional, but not as a definition.