Communities and Communication

“Community is a part of the proximate, everyday world, more immediate than the far away society yet larger than the family and primary group, that gives meaning and purpose to one’s life and that also diminishes one’s sense of vulnerability and of being adrift  or alone in an anonymous world”

(Keller, 1988: 5).

Community was at the core of my research project. I have since spent time researching the impact of the way that I photograph and now developed an approach into narrative and narrative structure. I started this module reading the work of Ferdinand Tonnies, who defines two key areas of community, that of Gemienschaft and Gesselschaft (Tönnies, 2001). These consider the way that we make our connections through personal, emotional and family (Gemeinschaft), and those formed from the way that we interact and operate within a civil and societal function.

Tonnies Gesselschaft is valuable in linking to the Roland Barthes’ idea of the iddiorryhtmic communities that live together but as an individualistic society (2012). Suzanne Keller uses Tonnies concept to analyse the way that American society has effectively diverged from the personal connections formed in smaller communities:

“the present search for community harks back to the nineteenth century when, in the face of rapid urbanisation, one idea of community was dying and no other had yet emerged to its place. This led human beings to construct an ideal (because lost) past or to design an ideal (because unrealised) future”

(1988: 167)

The idealised community is what interests me the most as there exists a disconnect in the way that we perceive the past, which is usually socially abstract from the realities that they are based on. Both Alec Soth and Eli Durst have used the idea of a perceived community in their work, which also utilises black and white photography as a tool to highlight Keller’s constructed ideal and also the way that photography creates those constructions (Fig: 1&2).

Figure 1: Alec Soth (2015) from ‘Songbook’
Figure 2: Eli Durst (2020) From ‘The Community’
Community Paper Submission

In continuing to develop my research and writing activities and into communityh, I was forwarded an opportunity to submit an abstract to the next ‘Communities and Communication: International Interdisciplinary Conference & Festival’ in April of next year, which would be online via Staffordshire University. I felt that it was a good opportunity to test my research into community and submit an abstract to involve myself in the process of discussing my ideas and work on the topic. Even if this is not successful, I find the process valuable as the act of writing about my project in a concise way really consolidates the way that I have been approaching my project and the research around it.

I will use this to form my contextual statement for my WIPP.


Barthes, R., 2012. How to Live Together: Novelistic Simulations of some Everyday Spaces. Translation ed. New York: Columbia University Press.

Keller, S., 1988. The American Dream of Community: An unfinished Agenda. Sociological Forum, 3(2), pp. 167-183.

Tönnies, F., 2001. Community and Civil Society. Translation ed. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

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