1. Mutual engagement is the first characteristic of practice. It is the source of coherence of its members, consisting of relationships and activities organized around what it is that the community does.
The things that make mutual engagement possible are essential to any practice. Those that are more involved in the forms of mutual engagement are seen as ‘core members’. This is not surprising, because those that participate more in any community are apt to be recognized by a wider set of people as active participants, both within and outside that community. However, this does not mean that mutual engagement is the most important criteria by which to judge a member.
2. Joint enterprise reflects mutual engagement in the sense that it is something that is negotiated by its members—they all have a stake in the enterprise of Metafilter, and through their participation and sharing of ideas, they decide what’s important to them.
It goes beyond the simple act of posting/reading; MeFites are invested in making the environment the way they want it to be, to promote the image of the community in the way they see fit, to make their sessions pleasant and enjoyable (both now and for the future), and to align the image of being a part of Metafilter with the rest of their identity. Members won’t always agree on how these things are done, which is why no one member is representative of an entire group. The act of participating engages them in this process of constantly negotiating what it means to participate, how they participate, what events they attend, what rules they ignore, and all the other negotiable facets of their ever-changing enterprise.
3. The development of a shared repertoire is the third criteria for defining a CofP. According to Wenger, “the joint pursuit of an enterprise will create resources for negotiating meaning” (pg. 82). For example, people participating in Metafilter together will eventually collaborate to improve the experience, such as with the creation of better features, posts, sub-sites, etc. These improved tools will then help renegotiate what it means to be a part of the community, and increase the ability to learn, which gives more meaning to the enterprise and its members.
A shared repertoire involves more than just objects or requirements of group membership. It includes terminology, ideas, stories, ways of doing things, symbols, actions, concepts and all other things the community can produce, and all things that are a part of the practice itself. The Metafilter community is so productive in regards to reifying its practice with these resources, that despite the popularity of the site as compared to other sites, many of these resources are borrowed and propagated through other communities or by nonmembers. However, without the other two characteristics (mutual engagement and joint enterprise), those attempting to represent as members are not seen as legitimate.
Once this has been defined as a community of practice, we can start to analyze membership from a CofP perspective, where every linguistic choice an individual makes serves to negotiate with others who they are in terms of level of membership, mode of belonging, and trajectory (the direction they are heading with respect to the group). Essentially, each choice is a statement that reveals the desires, knowledge, and goals of the individual who makes it. Therefore, each linguistic choice is one involving identity.
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