Understanding Community: thoughts and experiences of young people

Hilary Yerbury


This ethnographic study of members of Generation X and Generation Y seeks to explore the ways they understand and experience community. Their comments and stories were gathered through interviews collected towards the end of 2006 and the early part of 2007. These provide richly textured evidence of their need to belong, to maintain everyday relationships and to collaborate with others at the same time as they commodify relationships or share information but not necessarily beliefs and values. Consequences of globalisation such as individualisation, transience in relationships, immediacy in communication, the blurring of boundaries between work and leisure, between public and private and the reliance on information and communication technologies are part of their everyday lives. Some study participants feel dis-embedded from their traditional social relationships and seek to establish new ones, whereas others feel comfortable joking with anonymous others. Their intellectualised constructs of community and descriptions of the lived reality of community find reflections in a range of theoretical constructs in the literature, both reinforcing and shifting scholarly understandings of the concept of community.


Community, Generation X, Generation Y, Internet, dis-embedding, re-embedding.

Full Text:



Albrow, M. & Eade, J. 1994, 'The impact of globalization on sociological concepts: community, culture and milieu', Innovation: The European Journal of Social Sciences, vol. 7, no. 4, pp. 371-390.

Anderson, B. 1983, Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism, Verso, London.

Anderson, B. 1991, Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism, rev. edn, Verso, London.

Appadurai, A. 1990, 'Disjuncture and difference in the global cultural economy', in M. Featherstone (ed.), Global Culture: Nationalism, Globalization and Modernity, Sage, London.

Bauman, Z. 2001, Community: Seeking Safety in an Insecure World, Polity Press, Cambridge.

Beck, U. 2002, Risk Society: Towards a New Modernity, trans. M. Ritter, Sage, London.

Bell, C. & Newby, H. 1974, 'Introduction', in C. Bell & H. Newby (eds), The Sociology of Community, Frank Cass, London.

Cohen, A.P. 1985, The Symbolic Construction of Community, Tavistock, London. http://dx.doi.org/10.4324/9780203323373

Etzioni, A. 1995, The Spirit of Community: Rights, Responsibilities and the Communitarian Agenda, Fontana, London.

Etzioni, A. 1997, The New Golden Rule: Community and Morality in a Democratic Society, Basic Books, New York.

Geertz, C. 1993, 'Thick description: Toward an interpretive theory of culture', in, The Interpretation of Cultures; Selected Essays, Fontana, London, pp. 3-30.

Giddens, A. 1990, The Consequences of Modernity, Polity Press, Cambridge.

Giddens, A. 2000, 'The Second Globalization Debate', The Third Culture, .

Jenkins, R. 2000, 'Categorization: Identity, social process and epistemology', Current Sociology, vol. 48, no. 3, pp. 7-25. http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/0011392100048003003

Knorr Cetina, K. 1997, 'Sociality with objects: Social relations in postsocial knowledge societies', Theory, Culture and Society, vol. 14, no. 4, pp. 1-30. http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/026327697014004001

Nancy, J.-L. 1991, The Inoperative Community, trans. P. Connor, L. Garbus, M. Holland & S. Sawhney, University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis.

Onyx, J., Wood, C., Bullen, P. & Osburn, L. 2005, 'Social capital: a rural youth perspective', Youth Studies Australia, vol. 24, no. 4, pp. 21-27.

Putnam, R. 2000, Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community, Simon and Schuster, New York.

Rheingold, H. 1994, The Virtual Community, Addison-Wesley, Reading, Mass.

Rheingold, H. 2000, The Virtual Community: Homesteading on the Electronic Frontier, Revised edn, MIT Press, Cambridge, Mass.

Shah, D.V., Kwak, N. & Holbert, R.L. 2001, 'Connecting" and "disconnecting" with civic life: Patterns of internet use and the production of social capital', Political Communication, vol. 18, no. 2, pp. 141-162." http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/105846001750322952

Tönnies, F. 1974, 'Gemeinschaft and Gesellschaft', in C. Bell & H. Newby (eds), The Sociology of Community, Frank Cass, London.

Williams, R. 1961, The Long Revolution, Chatto and Windus, London.

Wittel, A. 2001, 'Toward a network sociality', Theory, Culture and Society, vol. 18, no. 6, pp. 51-76.

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5130/ccs.v1i1.824