A great series of articles well-worth the time to read if you are interested in Communities of Practice:
In CoP Series #5, Nancy addresses the question of CoP and social network:
- Is a CoP the same thing as a (social) network? There is often some overlap. A network is the collection of connections and relationships between people. Right now, “social networking sites” such as Facebook and Meebo are all the rage. They can be useful tools for communities of practice, but they aren’t the same thing. The line between a community and a network is fuzzy in terms of membership, but the difference between a community of practice and a network is that the CoP is interested not just in the connections or relationships, but in the domain and practice. We’ll talk more about the important dynamic between communities and networks in a subsequent post.
Right now, I believe all communities are social networks but not all social networks are communities. Social networks permeate communities - they are the rails so to speak that community relationships ride on - networks enable relation connections and grouping to occur, helping communities to take shape, form identity, and persist over time - but social networks continue beyond whatever domain or border a community has - which in turn, enables an ebb-and-flow of people to participate (or lurk) in the community.
Another insightful perspective on community is found in this video: Howard Rheingold: how to make a successful virtual community.
And finally, another notable perspectives on communities by John Tropea: