ZML Didaktik / Innovative Learning Scenarios

Participation and non-participation (Wenger: Communities of Practice)

Posted on: Juli 16, 2012

My interest into identities is focussed on online.identities – and there non-participation is a big problem. So let’s see what Etienne wrote about „Participation and non-participation“  (Etienne Wenger’s “Communities of Practice: Learning, Meaning, and Identity” Cambridge University Press,1998. p 164).

Part II Identity, Chapter 7: Participation and non-participation

We know who we are by what is familiar and by what we … can make use of, and we know who we are not by what is unfamiliar, unwieldy, and out of our purview….. We define ourselves …. through practices we do not engage.

Our identities are shaped by combinations of participation and non-participation.

In a complex landscape of practices with boundaries and peripheries the individual passes boundaries, gets small insights in other practices.

Wenger defines participation, non-participation and a mix of both:

  • inside = „participation“
  • outside = „non-participation“
  • peripheral = not entirely inside, but with regard to participation – f.e. a newcomer (on an inbound trajectory) is peripheral participating, but (maybe) with time he or she will participate more – non-participation is enabling
  • marginal = not entirely outside, the non-participant aspect dominates, but a very restricted form of participation – non-participation is problematic

The mix of participation depends on our location in the social landscape, what the individual cares about, wants to know, what connection he / she builds, how she deals with her energies, how he aligns his trajectories. The individual can not entirely choose about participation and non-participation. It depends as well of the trajectories possible in a specific community of practice, some communities exclude participation of other communities, and the position of the community with respect to other communities plays a role as well.

In the last pages he reflects non-participation as a practice if people who work are not valued, are not integrated into the organization.




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