• Doctoral Dissertation
  • Journal Articles
  • Conference Papers & Articles
  • Qualifying Exam Papers
  • Professional Papers

  • Doctoral Dissertation

  • Connell, David J. 2003. "Observing Community: An Inquiry Into the Meaning of Community Based on Luhmann's General Theory of Society".
  • ABSTRACT. This inquiry examines the meaning of community as a response to the disparity between the increasing use and rising importance of community and an apparent inability to explain this phenomenon. This disparity appears in the form of closure. Within rural studies, community theorists presume that community is too elusive to define and too complex to understand. Consequently, ambiguity is accepted as a normal condition of inquiry. When we ask about the meaning of community, this closure (i.e., community is ambiguous because it is ambiguous) becomes problematic: community theorists cannot see beyond the limitations of their approaches.

    To 'see' the problem of closure this inquiry takes leave of the normal assumptions, methods, definitions, and approaches of rural studies. I adopt a 'post' normal foundation of inquiry by replacing a presupposition of an orderly existence with a presupposition of complexity. I work from the philosophical implications of complexity and reach forward to the possibility of community. The purpose of this research, therefore, is to address the limitations of the normal science of community theory within rural studies and, in so doing, propose a comprehensive foundation for a theory of community as a social system. I focus upon the dominant semantics of community within rural studies and, in particular, upon the emerging semantics of community within the field of sustainable rural communities.

    The framework used for this inquiry into the meaning of community is based on Niklas Luhmann's general theory of society, which is based on a post-humanist conception of the social as self-referential systems of communication. To reach forward to the possibility of community means to understand the semantics of community as an emergent, improbable form of social stability. Methodologically, a systems-theoretical approach observes the co-evolution of semantics and social structures. Accordingly, complexity is not an ontological constraint but an innovative point of departure for an inquiry into the meaning of community. We gain not only a clear (non-ambiguous) understanding of the residual, dominant, and emerging semantics of community, but also important insights as to why people are increasingly using community as a significant societal value of health, well-being, and sustainability.

    Journal Articles

  • Connell, David J. and Ellen Wall 2004. 'Profiling Economic Capacity.' Journal of Extension 42(4).

  • Connell, David J. 2003. 'Multiple Constructions of the Environmental Crisis: A Sociocybernetic View.' Journal of Sociocybernetics 3(2):1-12.

  • Conference Papers & Articles

  • Connell, David J. 2004. "The State of Community Theory: Implications for Communal Studies." Communal Studies Association, Shaker Hancock Village, Pittsfield, Massachusetts, October, 2004.
  • ABSTRACT. The state of community theory is not good. Community is deemed too elusive to define and too complex to understand. Consequently, ambiguity prevails over theory. This paper discusses three implications of this problem for communal studies. (1) Community is taken as a given object of social order situated between individuals and society, thus constraining how communal relations can be understood. (2) Community theory is founded upon surface descriptions of human settlements and interactions. (3) Theory, definitions, and approaches used for community studies are interdependent, i.e., regardless of the approach used, the method of study and object of study refer to each other in circular arguments.
  • Connell, David J., Tony Fuller, and Nobuhiro Tsuboi 2004. "Governance: The Dynamic Tension of an Arena Society." World Congress of Rural Sociology, Trondheim, Norway, July, 2004.
  • ABSTRACT. To gain insight to the relationship among rural territory, environment, and governance, we will examine how potential conflict between wanting to change and wanting to stay the same creates tension. This tension arises within a broader process of flows, linkages, as well as disconnections that shape rural territories. Governance, as formal and informal processes of managing the tension of local dynamics, adapts to these broader territorial dynamics of physical and spatial changes. For this paper, we use the idea of Arena Society as a descriptive framework for discussing evolving rural settlements in Canada and Japan, two societies with different histories and different options for participating in a global society. We find that in an established society like that of Japan, infrastructure more often conforms to evolving settlement patterns. In contrast, in a relatively new rural territory like Canada, settlement patterns more often conform to evolving infrastructures such as railways, roads, and information technologies. Forms of governance emerge from these processes of change.
  • Connell, David J. 2004. "Post Normal Philosophy: The Disconnectedness of All Things." Session: Complexity, post-normal science and ecosystem approach. A Tribute to the Life and Work of James Kay. Eighth Biennial Scientific Conference, International Society for Ecological Economics, Montreal, Quebec, July, 2004.
  • ABSTRACT. Surprise is a characteristic of complexity: the consequent uncertainty of not quite knowing right from wrong when all systems are interconnected. Post normal science includes surprise. It relies less upon the scientist as expert and increasingly upon culture and values. The latter focusses inquiry on the social systems side of Kay's model of ecosystem health (often referred to as 'the diamond diagram'). In this paper, I explore the philosophical implications of embracing complexity as the foundation of social inquiry into ecosystem health. The shift from 'post normal' science to 'post normal' philosophy is a shift from embracing the ontological implications of complexity to embracing its epistemological implications. To understand the possibility of culture and values we have to deal with the consequent uncertainty of not quite knowing right from wrong when all systems are disconnected.
  • Connell, David J. 2004. "Philosophical Reflections on 'The Communitarian Vision'" Eighth Conference, International Communal Studies Association, The Amana Colonies, Iowa, United States, June, 2004.
  • ABSTRACT. In a communitarian vision, the 'I' is constituted through the 'We' in a dynamic tension shaped by the values and culture of communal relations. In this paper, I reflect upon the meaning of this vision: what is it, how is it possible, why is it important? Is the tension between I and We a process of negotiating a balance between individual rights and social responsibilities? This is one way to inquire into the meaning of the communitarian vision. But the question already presumes too much: rights, responsibilities, and a process of negotiation. A more radical approach is to question the foundations of modern society. When we understand these foundations then we can appreciate the possibility of communal relations.
  • Connell, David J. 2004. "Organic Farming: A Shared Practice of Community." Social Research in Organic Agriculture Conference. University of Guelph, Guelph, Ontario, Canada, January 23, 2004.
  • ABSTRACT. In this paper I explore the relationship between 'community' and the practice of organic farming in order to gain insight to the social dimension of sustainable agriculture. The thesis is: Without community, organic agriculture merely feeds the status quo because consumers remain ideologically detached from the food they eat. Within community, organic agriculture can be a practice of social change. Community is a place of change because it is both socially valued and a source of social values. As evident in the growing intentional community movement, the relationship among organic agriculture, sustainability, and place is community.
  • Connell, David J. 2003. "Community Theory: A Problem of Self-reference." Session: Contemporary Sociological Theory, Canadian Sociology and Anthropology Association Annual Meeting, Congress for the Humanities and Social Sciences, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, June 1-5, 2003.
  • ABSTRACT. The closer we look for the meaning of community the more ambiguity we find. And when we look for possible sources of this ambiguity, we find self-reference. Theory, concepts, definitions, approaches, and object of study are interdependent. Consequently, there is confusion between what community is and what it should be, between method of study and the object of study, and between the practical and the ideological. The willingness of sociologists to accept ambiguity as an unavoidable condition of community theory effectively conceals the underlying problem of self-reference. Alternatively, a social theory premised upon self-reference offers an innovative starting point from which we can observe community's conceptual ambiguity. The work of German sociologist Niklas Luhmann is used for this purpose. The aim of the paper is to explore how Luhmann's social theory of self-reference can be used to frame an inquiry into the meaning of community.
  • Connell, David J. 2003. "Community is Spatial Inequality." Spatial Inequality: Continuity and Change in Territorial Stratification, Annual Meeting, Rural Sociological Association, Montreal, Quebec, Canada, July 27-30, 2003.
  • ABSTRACT. This paper offers an alternative interpretation of 'false dichotomies,' which are often dismissed as empty distinctions based on tautologies and paradoxes. But such distinctions are not false, as much as they are predicated on a 'first order' logic. When one adopts a 'second order' logic or perspective, it is possible to observe distinctions as productive constructions of reality. This approach is particularly useful for lending insights and clarity to ubiquitous and enigmatic concepts like community, which is the topic of this paper. The aim is to discuss how a second-order perspective reveals community as a distinct form of spatial inequality. The discussion draws from the author's doctoral dissertation, Observing Community: An Inquiry Into the Meaning of Community Based on Luhmann's General Theory of Society.
  • Connell, David J. 2003. "Searching for Meaning in the Landscapes of Community." Session: Space and Community: Mapping Social Worlds, Canadian Sociology and Anthropology Association Annual Meeting, Congress for the Humanities and Social Sciences, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, June 1-5, 2003.
  • ABSTRACT. The purpose of this paper is to reflect upon analysis of community mapping data as part of an inquiry into the meaning of community. The rich images produced by GIS technology suggest that community mapping can be a valuable tool. However, in order to sort through a complex 'landscape' of possible interpretations of the images, use of these tools must be set within a substantial research context. Otherwise, community mapping is only as good as one's definition of community. In search of an epistemological foundation for interpretting community mapping data, I ground both the act of drawing community maps and the interpretation of these maps in an operative constructivism. This foundation addresses some of the inherent methodological limitations of using community mapping methods and GIS analysis for an inquiry into the meaning of community.
  • Connell, David J. 2002. "From Symbolic Interactionism to Luhmann: From First-order to Second-order Observations of Society." Semiotics and Hermeneutics: Methodologies and Techniques for Self Construction, Society for the Study of Symbolic Interaction 2002 Conference, Chicago. August 16-19, 2002.

  • Connell, David J. 2002. "Community: A Place Between Risk and Security." The Community Effect in Rural Places, 65th Annual Meeting, Rural Sociological Society. Chicago, August 14-18, 2002.

  • Connell, David J. 2002. "Community as 'Place in this World': A Second-order Observation." XVth World Congress of Sociology, Research Council 51: Sociocybernetics, International Sociological Association. Brisbane, Australia. July 7-13, 2002.

  • Connell, David J. 2002. "Complex Constructions of Complex Crises: A Sociocybernetic View of Multiple Observations." Session on Environment, Economy, and Society, XV World Congress of Sociology. Brisbane, Australia. July 7-13, 2002.

  • Connell, David J. 1999. "The Scales of Health: A Comparative Review of Health Assessment Approaches".

  • Connell, David J. 1999. "Collective Entrepreneurship: In Search of Meaning".

  • Connell, David J. 2001. "Broken Circle or Breaking New Ground" (Final Report for Sustainable Rural Communities Project).

  • Connell, David J. 1999. "Healthy Economic Development: A New Framework".

  • Qualifying Exam Papers

    Qualifying Exam Paper —
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    References for Questions.

    Professional Papers