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Yesterday I did a post about ‘Communities of Practice’ (CoP) that I feel could be of interest to applied/practicing anthropologists, anthropologists in the tech field, and design anthropologists.

I created the list as part of an assignment for my pre-practicum course. The professor wanted us to find professional organizations that would serve as our CoP post graduation. For the sake of the assignment, professional organizations were pseudo-synonymous with CoP and vice versa. Professional organizations (the AAA and SfAA would be examples) are those that charge for membership and in return you receive benefits such as publications, and also networking opportunities.

I’m wondering how relevant these professional organizations really are in the age of the internet. There are many, many social networks that can be used to network both socially and professionally. Such networks are very accessible (if you have the internet), are free to join, take as much (or little) effort as you want to maintain, and there are no face-to-face conferences for you to be tempted to attend. Virtual social networks can also be a great way for shy or timid people to begin networking or for people to get to know people in other cities, etc.

Now, these social networks do not offer tangible membership benefits immediately, nor do they guarantee such results BUT if you maintain, nurture, and give to your network you can receive many benefits!

Will social networks replace what professional organizations have to offer? Well, the beautiful thing about social networks is that they are what you want them to be. If you are looking for professional development, connections, inspirations, relationships, job opportunities, etc. then find people to add that can offer those to you – and make sure you give back to them!

I do belong to professional organizations, but I’m not sure if I’ll renew my membership to most. I get more out of my social networks than those professional organizations 😉