Cognative Dissident

Friday, January 7

Einshaltschaft

Jeff Jarvis has an entertaining post about German terms describing communities, and coins the term Gememeschaft to describe communities have that have developed online. It's an interesting idea, but Jarvis' term (along with gecyberschft, which is suggested here) isn't grammatical (as a commenter points out).

While the original article asserts that the quality which differentiates this new state of affairs is that worth of individuals is assessed. While I think that's true, I don't know if that's the most feature of this new social organization. In my mind, the primary qualities characterizing the spontaneous organization of people via the internet are those of connection and engagement. First, connection to the internet. Without being online, this community is largely inaccessible. Beyond the physical connection to the online community is the importance of connections within these communities. Just think about the role of links and linking in the blogosphere.

Additionally, these are active communities. While there are many more people who read blogs and consume online media than produce them, that is clearly a choice they have made. The ease with which one can become engaged and active in this community is unprecedented. In fact, it's this very quality that is causing trouble for people who don't realize that we're all buying ink by the barrel, and it's cheap. Instapundit isn't just a clever name. We can all be pundits at will these days, and the only thing that limits an individual's expression is how willing they are to engage the community.

So, in recognition that connection and engagement are the salient characteristics of this new social organization, and because it seems necessary to propose a term in German, I'll put my entry into the ring: Einshaltschaft

The base word, einschalten means to activate, or to turn on, but can also mean to plug in, or, used reflexively, to engage oneself in something. Thus it captures not just the physical need to be online, but also describes important features of the communities created when people interact via blogs, email and the wider internet.

Entertainingly, it's also the term used to describe the hiring of a lawyer (einen Rechtsanwalt einschalten), which, given the number of law professors, lawyers and law students with blogs, seems somehow additionally appropriate.

The suffix schaft is roughly equivalent to "hood" in English.

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