My class this term is entitled “Information Communities” and I will be blogging here about a specific information community several times over the next few months. Those of my readers who are not pursuing an MLIS are probably wondering what an information community is exactly, so I will try to explain. An information community is essentially a community built around information and the use of information.
Okay, I know that doesn’t make things crystal clear, but stop rolling your eyes at me and let me finish. Think about some of the communities you are a part of. How did those communities form? What brought them together? For many, it was likely a common interest and wanting to share information about it. The Cape Radio community, for example, formed around the common interests of City of Heroes and music, sharing information about the game, the characters we created, the deejays’ show times and locations, bands and artists, songs, and various musical genres. With the closing of City of Heroes, we’ve shifted some of the topics, now sharing information about efforts to reopen it or create a similar one, new games we are playing, and other common interests we may have. While the community has evolved due to the friendships we have developed, it was the initial interest in more information that caused us to join in the first place.
The Cape Radio community is not, however, the one I will be using for my class. Because this is also a business blog, and because I am interested in how creative solopreneurs can use information science in their businesses, I would like to focus on an information community that caters to handmade artists. Thus, the one I have chosen is Etsy Sellers.
I officially opened Rewondered’s shop on Etsy in January of 2012, so I have been a member of this information community for nearly three years. The majority of Etsy Sellers are women, run their business from their home without any help, and don’t wish to grow their business beyond what they can handle on their own (Etsy, 2013). Etsy, and the Internet in general, have allowed crafters and artisans new networking opportunities and the ability to market and distribute their products on a global scale, enabling a kind of “pro-am creative entrepreneurialism” (Luckman, 2011).
Let’s look at how Etsy Sellers stack up as an information community according to the five key characteristics described by Fisher and Durrance (2003).
1. Information communities exploit the information sharing qualities of technology and yield multiplier effects for stakeholders.
Using an online marketplace such as Etsy to sell products takes advantage of the collective efforts to promote the site. Information is shared through the Etsy Blog, Seller Handbook, and Forums. Etsy Sellers can also join Teams, some of which even meet offline. Many sellers have their own blogs (like this one) and there are several blogs dedicated to sharing information about selling on Etsy (a couple of my favorites are Handmadeology and Marketing Creativity). Social media, such as Facebook and Twitter, is also extensively used by many Etsy Sellers.
2. Information communities emphasize collaboration among diverse groups that provide information and may share joint responsibility and resources.
Etsy Sellers come from all over the world and have a wide variety of backgrounds. They demonstrate a multitude of talents and varying skill levels. Each contributes to the responsibility of promoting the site and shares in the available resources. Etsy, itself, is collaborating with other groups to protect net neutrality, provide Craft Entrepreneurship education, and propose policies and programs the government can use to promote micro-businesses such as those of Etsy Sellers.
3. Information communities anticipate and often form around people’s needs to access and use information in ways that people perceive as helpful.
This is particularly true of Etsy Sellers who have created their own blog where they share their own expertise or compile information for other information sources. Etsy Teams and some Facebook Groups have also formed around specific information needs, and many Etsy Sellers use social media to share relevant articles they have found. The use of Pinterest is another great example.
4. Information communities remove barriers to information about acquiring needed services and participating in civic life.
Etsy Sellers are a global community, and as such they help each other overcome geographical barriers. Becoming an Etsy Seller has few barriers, and information is easily accessible to walk a new seller through the process of setting up a shop. Etsy has also become a trusted marketplace, overcoming trust barriers. We can even overcome some economic barriers, by offering new sellers a link that will allow them to get 40 free listings to get started. Note: if you use that link to open a new Etsy shop, I will also receive 40 free listings… so I highly encourage you to open your own shop! :)
5. Information communities foster social connectedness within the larger community.
For Etsy Sellers, I would say this is done largely through social media and blogging, as well as the Teams and Forums on Etsy. By sharing information about our products and businesses, we are connecting with potential customers, encouraging others to pursue their own dreams, and making new friends. We learn from, teach, and support each other and those around us.
Pictured, left to right:
- Irene of wantknot – http://wantknot.etsy.com
- Teri of avinini – http://avinini.etsy.com
- Melissa – no longer on Etsy :(
- Sam of RusticCraft – http://rusticcraftdesign.etsy.com
As I mentioned in my last post, I am also working on plans to write books and/or reports for creative solopreneurs, and the research I will be doing into the information needs of this community will help me to choose topics and determine how best to present the information. I will also be interviewing other Etsy Sellers for future blog posts and assignments, so if you would like to volunteer to be one of my
victims guinea pigs interviewees, please comment below or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and let me know!
Etsy (2013). Redefining Entrepreneurship: Etsy Sellers’ Economic Impact. Retrieved from http://blog.etsy.com/news/files/2013/11/Etsy_Redefining-Entrepreneurship_November-2013.pdf
Fisher, K., & Durrance, J. (2003). Information communities. In K. Christensen, & D. Levinson (Eds.), Encyclopedia of community: From the village to the virtual world. (pp. 658-661). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, Inc. Retrieved from http://libaccess.sjlibrary.org/login?url=http://knowledge.sagepub.com/view/community/n248.xml
Luckman, S. (2013). The Aura of the Analogue in a Digital Age Women’s Crafts, Creative Markets and Home-Based Labour After Etsy. Cultural Studies Review, 19(1), 249-270.