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A Community of Practice Using Computer-Mediated Communication for Legitimate Peripheral Participation
  • John L. Isenhour, Kennesaw State University
This thesis is a study of computer mediated communication (CMC) in a widely distributed community of practice, specifically, craft brewers. I am especially interested in issues of community maintenance and reproduction as they are carried out electronically through a Brewers' Electronic Forum. Whereas many studies of CMC focus solely on "online communities", this study has shown that it is possible for an e-forum community to have ramifications far beyond its existence on the Internet. The Brewers' Forum is a major shaping force in defining the contemporary craft brewing community in the United States, as it allows for effective communication between a large number of people who are widely dispersed. Moreover, the number of postings dealing with issues of community definition, boundaries and practices indicate that the Forum is an important vehicle for discussing and disseminating community-based information resulting in the formation of deep connections between its members. The primary data source for the study consists of an archived version of the electronic Brewers' Forum. Interviews and observations drawn from personal experience as a participant observer supplement the analysis of the data set. I also consult a variety of printed sources including trade journal and social histories of brewing. Communities of Practice rely upon the enculturation of newcomers into the community for maintenance and stability over time. Lave and Wenger's (1991) concept of Legitimate Peripheral Participation (LPP) plays an integral role in the reproduction of Communities of Practice. As an approach to situated learning, LPP includes not only traditional apprenticeship methods of learning but also "indirect" CMC learning that takes place on the Forum. An important finding of the study is that only a low level of shared knowledge is needed in order for LPP to occur. This means that the Forum is able to accommodate the shifting "locations" of brewers with varying degrees of experience on their trajectories toward "full participation". Moreover, I suggest that CMC LPP in the form of the Brewers' Forum actually functions as apprenticeship did in pre-Industrial brewing, leading to the conclusion that CMC LPP in this case is apprenticeship.
  • Communication and the arts,
  • Social sciences,
  • Community of practice,
  • Computer-mediated communication,
  • Craft brewers,
  • Electronic forum
Publication Date
Citation Information
Dr. John L. Isenhour. "A Social History of Cultural and Technological aspects of Brewing and Fermentation Science."