This is discussed in Chapter 8 of Etienne Wenger’s book Communities of Practice: Learning, Meaning and Identity (p.173-187)
Keywords: Engagement, alignment, imagination, belonging, identity, communities
To make sense of identity formation and learning in communities of practice, we need to consider three modes of belonging – engagement, imagination and alignment.
Engagement is the active negotiation of meaning through the formation of trajectories and the unfolding of histories of practice. Mutual engagement creates a shared reality in which to act and construct an identity. Whilst it can lead to negotiation of meaning, the shared histories can also narrow learning through their power in sustaining identity.
Alignment coordinates our energies and activities to contribute to broader structures. Through alignment we do what we need to do to become part of something big. Alignment concerns power, it can amplify our power and our sense of the possible – but it can also be blind and disempowering making us vulnerable to delusion and abuse.
Imagination is extrapolating your own experiences through time and space. It is a creative process that reaches beyond direct engagement. Imagination can create relations of identity anywhere throughout history. Imagination was very well illustrated by the experiences of two stonecutters, doing the same job who differed in the sense of what they were doing and in their sense of themselves as individual stonecutters. One was ‘cutting a perfectly square shape’; the other was ‘building a cathedral’.
On p.183 Etienne writes
‘Given a community, one might wonder what the possibilities for mutual engagement are, what material supports imagination, and how alignment is secured. Such questions focus not on classification but on mechanisms of community formation, as well as on the trade-offs and kinds of work involved’.
When working in a community of practice it is fairly easy to see concrete evidence of engagement and alignment. Imagination seems to me more difficult to ‘pin down.’
- Is it less visible?
- How conscious is it?
- Is it a shared reality?
- What material supports imagination?
These are my questions from this Chapter.