Friday, October 3, 2008

body choir: unexpected lessons for a healthy community

I was watching an old friend play some music last night and witnessed something that might offer some unexpected clues about what "health" could look like in an online community.

Scattered throughout the audience were friends of the musician who are also members of body choir. A friend told me that there's no talking allowed at body choir-- you speak, or rather sing with your body. This results in spontaneous, yet very fluid movements that you might have seen back in the days of EST groups. Eventually, they're dancing, completely in synch.

It used to amuse me, but last night I decided I was impressed by the symbiosis they achieve. 

There's this interesting process that sets off as various members start to internalize the music, make eye-contact with one another, exchange cult-like smiles, and eventually begin harmonizing their movements, seemingly rolling off one another. You can almost see a meme disseminate across the audience. 

How could an online community achieve this symbiosis-- each member internalizing the community's core values, generating that level of enthusiasm, and harnessing it into synchronized communications?

Can we study groups like this to derive an algorithm for the health of a community? A certain level of information, a vehicle to facilitate the transmission of that information, an optimal number of participants?

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