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A gated community only allows some people to get into the system. The term comes from retirement or high-income places in Florida and Arizona where, unless you live in the community or are a designated guest of someone who is, you are not allowed to enter. Often, in the retirement communities, there are policies banning children. Some of these communities are considered to be completely private property, and able to eject any non-resident from the streets or sidewalks within the gated area. In this respect, they are the cultural descendants of the American CompanyTown?.

An example of a gated community is a naturist center. In these cases, the motivation for the isolation is different, since the naturism lifestyle, which partly consists of living without any clothes, is not tolerated in public. In most places of the world, the only way to actually live like a naturist, is to recreate a community which is officially entirely private property in the eyes of the law. A gate is needed to prevent gawkers to come inside the community, but generally, anyone may visit by paying an entrance fee and removing their clothes, even thought most centers do not allow single men to visit, allowing only couples.

In SnowCrash, NealStephenson extrapolates from the current GatedCommunity trend to imply almost everyone of moderate wealth will live in gated communities as the exterior world deteriorates into near anarchy. This scenario run rampant is described in [The Naked Sun] by BookShelved:IsaacAsimov - in which an entire civilization has become agoraphobic and only communicates holographically instead of appearing in person.

For online communities we use the term "gated community" to indicate closed membership. It is not easy to participate in the community, because you have to go through some procedure to be admitted. You have to know somebody who invites you to the locked InternetRelayChat channel, gives you the password for the website, or signs you up to the mailing list, for example.

GatedCommunity Design Patterns

Certain forums like LiveJournal give the author complete control over who reads or doesn't read their writing. They will let only friends in, or select friends for this and other friends for that. Essentially, this is a GatedCommunity of one, with various windows with venetian blinds. If you do this, you are lost alone behind your walls. But isn't it just an inverted case of CommunityOutcast? Have you not just CommunityExiled yourself? Consider the reality if everyone hid behind their walls; how would you ever meet anyone?

Perhaps the availability of technology that allows you to control the ways in and out of those walls encourages people to build them higher and higher. I personally feel that the LiveJournal access control system is useful, because much as you wouldn't immediately tell your innermost thoughts to everyone you know, there may well be things that you do want to tell to everyone you know. Maybe this could be described as LevelsOfFriendship?. -- EarleMartin

You can also think of this continuum as an [Intimacy Gradient]. An Intimacy Gradient is a gradient, not a binary distinction between public and private.

There's a continuum. On the one extreme, most wikis allow people to edit without even logging on. On the other extreme, a corporate intranet may be available only to fifty people and you have to work for the place eight hours a day to gain access (and even then, you may not have complete write access).

There are Intimacy Gradient design patterns in 3D. Houses have front porches and windows, living rooms that are fairly public social spaces, and bedrooms that are more private. Public buildings have courtyards. Public buildings have front doors that are visible. This design pattern creates a continuum from more public spaces to more private spaces, with ways of discovering entries, and social patterns for gaining access.

I think in the online world we don't have a rich and subtle enough set of design patterns to support different desired amounts of openness and privacy, and transitions from private to public spaces. --AdinaLevin

I've participated in one. The SignalToNoise ratio of a music discussion mailing list (started in the golden age of BitNet?) became so bad, and the time of long-time participants was spent so much on fighting abuse and teaching newbies netiquette that they formed a GatedCommunity mailing list.

The problem is that the community gets stilted. When it works, it is fine, but occasionally, it is important and good to get new blood into the system. --DaveJacoby

The solution to the stilting is to recruit constantly. For a while, there was a "coderpunks" mailing list with closed membership. Officially, you had to apply and be accepted, but in reality anyone who made a technically defensible post to the related "cypherpunks" list was tacitly added to "coderpunks" even if they did not request it. This worked well for a while.

Inverted Exile

See ShieldsUp.

Reasons for online gated communities

Higher signal-to-noise ratio: if the people who are allowed to contribute to the community are especially knowledgable and interested in the subject at hand, contributions are likely to be more on-topic than if anyone in the world can contribute. (In the simplest case, at least there will be no penis-enlargement spam!)

Reduced conflict and flamage: if the limited number of people allowed to participate trust each other and give each other the benefit of the doubt (AssumeGoodFaith), things are likely to go more smoothly than if any troll or enemy in the world can barge in.

Comfort level: if membership in the gated community is limited to a mutally trusted and trusting group, people will feel more comfortable discussion sensitive or personal subjects than they would be "out in the open".

Real privacy: consider a group of parents of children with some shared interests and activities; using a CollaborativeWorkspace? may help organize activities and share information, but (depending on the information that needs to be shared) it may need to be a GatedCommunity in order to protect the children (who may not even be aware of the community, especially if very young).

Reasons for MeatSpace gated communities:

Security. The residents can enjoy security from violence to their person and loss of property. See SnowCrash.

Furthering a shared purpose of the residents of the community. There are CoHousing? communities around the world where the residents have joined together to build a group of residential structures with design features that private real estate developers would probably not build for sale to individuals. An example design feature might be multiple attached housing units with limited parking or parking set off to the side of the residential units, instead of having a parking lot as the center of a complex. Actually the CoHousing? developments I'm familiar with are not physically gated - although I don't think they share their common areas with the public.


Indeed, there are many examples. Consider the eco-village, which is ..., or intentional community, which is ... or the space controlled by a conceptual community implied by a church or school or even an academic department. Many co-op housing developments are obviously 'gated' as well. Why should people in apartments have control over common space, and people in freestanding homes not have it? There is also great potential to build developments which shut down streets, and reclaim streets as gardens or parks in order to counter the effects of CarCulture.

Your text above is high on jargon and low on substance. I think the only point you actually made was that some apartments are gated communities as well, but the point about control over common space is tangential to the idea of a gated community which controls access to membership, not property.

I think "gated community" can apply to membership or property or both; for example, the SnowCrash GatedCommunity idea certainly involves both in a fundamental way. I think an argument for common control of property is relevant to the goodness of GatedCommunity. -- BayleShanks

If a GatedCommunity is defined by common control of property, then how is it different from something like a traditional town, in which taxes pay for common spaces like libraries and parks, and police to protect them? If the only difference is the restricted access/membership, why is that a good thing instead of a recipe for stagnation?

I would define a MeatSpace GatedCommunity as a community where traditionally public areas are made inaccessible to everyone but residents and guests. Traditionally, roadways and parks are public; in a gated community they are not. In reality, the term community does not apply since there is no commerce.

Many individual landowners have had fenced and gated lands since the beginning of civilization. The first cities were walled cities, and farms, ranches, homesteads, and the mansions of the rich have all had fences and gates. From the earliest times, fences were built to exclude: feral animals, bandits, theives, armies. In many cities, the expensive housing developments have fences or walls that limit access to one or two points, even if there are no gates. The addition of gates and access control is a small additional step, chiefly brought about by VanityFears of crime.

Difference between Online and 3D Gated Communities

A GatedCommunity online means something different from a GatedCommunity in 3D. In a 3D OpenCommunity, there are existing laws and social norms that protect property and regulate civilized behavior. In many healthy 3D OpenCommunities?, a person can walk through the streets and chat with passersby, but can't easily break things and harm people with impunity.

An Online OpenCommunity is more vulnerable to aggressive passersby, lacking legal protection, in an anomymous environment that protects antisocial behavior. SoftSecurity depends on having a community that is sizable and strong enough to put energy defending borders without access control. In an online GatedCommunity, this simply brings a measure of order to the chaos of the Internet (in fact, this might be the reasoning behind the creation of the GatedCommunity in the first place).

see http://www.plastic.com/article.html;sid=03/08/03/06575047 for an interesting discussion

Corporate Intranets

Is the closed nature of corporate intranets the reason for corporate intranet stagnancy?

Of course, many corporate intranets are pretty stagnant. MartinHarper

Plus corporate intranets complicate things or simplify things by imposing an existing external hierarchy. I would have thought that would have a much stronger bearing on stagnancy than the gate AndrewCates

Note: this is my first attempt at Meatball page refactoring. If it's all wrong, please revert, and point to guidelines. I won't be offended. --AdinaLevin



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