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From potted begonias to user profiles: Visualizing community

What do we see as visual signs of community?

In place-based communities, appearances are connected to sense of community. Neighborhoods with clean yards, lit porch lights in the evenings, little trash strewn around public areas, and flower pots displayed by houses have higher sense of community than those that are dirty, unlit, and undecorated.

Potted begonias on a porch railing

But it’s one of those chicken-and-the-egg scenarios. Does sense of community spread because of the visible evidence of community? Or does a strong sense of community inspire members to take care of that community in visible ways?

And in a mediated community, what are the visible signs of community that we look for … Photo galleries? Creative avatars? Well-organized and tended conversation threads?

Community identity plays a role in feelings of membership with a community. This is no small matter, these little signs stand behind strong bonds within communities.

These visual symbols of community — whether they are potted begonias on a porch or completed user profiles — help us judge communities that we belong to or are considering joining. They visually represent the community experience.