Leath Tonino: With so much online communication, is there perhaps a new definition of community emerging in the modern world?
John Elder: Yes, people are increasingly identifying themselves as members of online communities. On the one hand, this is a good development: They can interact with others around the world while they stay in one place, reducing travel and migration. And people in remote places have greater access to educational and artistic resources.
On the other hand, I think that an online community is very different from a group of people who live close to each other. With the Internet you make contact mostly with people who share your interests: the work of a certain poet, say, or Doberman pinschers. But if you live on North Street in Bristol [Vermont], as we do, there are going to be people on your block, maybe even next door to you, who are at the far end of the political or religious spectrum. And that is a great gift too, because it expands you. There’s value in committing yourself to a community that includes people you might find disagreeable—but who, by the same token, challenge you to grow and to consider your values.
—John Elder, in interview (The Sun, June 2013)