(Re)defining Community


Both Howley and Rennie touch upon the definition of community. They both conclude that the notion of community/communities is difficult to define and the borders and boundaries that differentiate them are largely constructed through symbolic practices or locality. Communities can be expressions of similarities as well as differences and often contains difference within unity, constructing a shared collective identity.

In the context of community radio, the community has generally been viewed as the listeners in a specific geographical place, and the very purpose of the radio station has been to serve that geographical community and to be of, by and for the people of that specific place. This remains true, but the entrance of social media and the interconnectivity that the Internet and mobile phones offer, unties the definition of community from its geographical limitations. Community is no longer limited to the reach of the FM/AM airwaves but can now be amplified through online streaming that can be accessed by a global audience.

Social media and mobile phones has a dramatic effect on the notion of community, expanding to include imagined communities and virtual communities. With the extension to social media, mobile phones and the Internet, the radio stations can engage with their audience in a way that has not previously been possible. For example, such extension of the airwaves allows for the diaspora of the “originally targeted community” to engage in community radio stations, not only passively listening to the concerns of their past geographical community but also to give feedback, engage in debates and raise concerns.  It also opens up for interactivity and live participation that can have a direct effect on programming content. The global enters the local in a whole new way, converging into a glocality that challenges old definitions of community in community media.

Just the fact that I can sit in Stockholm, Sweden and tune in to an internet broadcast of a community radio station in South Africa and have a direct channel with the station via social media shows the complexity of the notion of community in community radio. Am I part of the community or not? Am I an intruder to engage?

This opens up for questions which requires further exploration.
Please give me your thoughts!


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  1. Elias, there is one very important limitation in regard to community radio – language! I chose South Africa as well when looking for radio stations to listen to – as many of the South African stations are in English. But I will challenge myself and find a station with e.g. French speaking speakers… 🙂

  2. Elisabeth Korswing

    Good question, Elias. Who defines who is part of a community? Is it enough for a person to feel like a part of the community to be accepted? The Sami Counsel in Sweden says that anyone who defines themselves as Sami is a Sami (although there are a few more qualifications that need to be met in order to be allowed to vote).

  3. Rushina Ansari

    In the Globalised world your question is very relevant – i was listening to the BBC Indian community radio which is typically meant for the Indian diaspora in UK. The broadcaster was British, and the callers were people who were Indians, some Asians but also non Indians who had Indian acquaintance, close friends or were married to Indians. And most importantly, fans of Bollywood music – a result of the huge Indian diaspora presence in UK. These are all the people who thought they belonged to the community.

    • That is a perfect example! But is there a discussion about who has the right to be a part of the these community? Is there such a thing as someone having more or less of a right to belong to an “imagined community”?

      • I think not. Now the citizenship is not as bound to nationality as it used to, but to personal beliefs – so if one believes he is part of a community or identifies himself as part of one, that should be it. but of course, there is the bit about integration 🙂 if he won’t be liked notions of national citizenship will be most probably brought into discussion to alienate the ‘intruder’