Community is a much-used term in communication research and theorizing, occurring in a variety of everyday senses and as a central concept in several intellectual traditions. As an ordinary term in speech and writing, community has (at least) five different meanings. A first and one of the most common ones, community1, is to equate the term with the set of people who inhabit a certain geographic place. In this meaning, community is a geographic unit bigger than family and neighborhood but smaller than the state, region, or nation. Community1 is the name for the people who live in local units such as cities, towns, and school districts (e.g., the Denver community).

A second meaning, community2, is as a term of reference for a discrete set of people who share a culturally marked identity. In the United States, media frequently make claims about the gay or older community, the Hmong or Latino community, the Muslim or Jewish community, and so on. In this second use, community is a synonym for identity groups. Community2 is regularly used to refer to the groups that the larger society has marginalized or stigmatized in some way. Related to this second meaning is a third one, community3, which treats community as a set of people who share an interest or activity (e.g., the snowboarding community, the Facebook community, the vegan community).

Community’s fourth meaning, community4, is as a positive sentiment that may be enacted, accomplished, pursued, or endangered. An aim of most groups and organizations, whether they exist face-to-face or virtually, online, is to establish a “sense of community” among participants. Groups that succeed in building community are ones that through their communication have created a sense of caring and connection among the participants.

The last everyday meaning for community, community5, is as a pole in two pairs of political values that both depend on and are in tension with each other. Within this meaning, commitment to the well-being of a group (community) is contrasted with a valuing of individual rights. Here, the needs and demands of people living together with bonds of connection and mutual responsibility, community5, are contrasted with the impersonal, more minimalist rights of society.

Littlejohn, Stephen W and Karen A.Floss. (2009). Encyclopedia of Communication Theory.USA:SAGE.654

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Gayes Mahestu
Edwina Ayu Kustiawan