Often real situations and virtual situations end up by influencing each other and each of them activates behaviors, countermeasures, attitudes, beginning with impulses from the “other space”, whether real or cyber.
The case I am about to introduce you is certainly one of these, but before giving you the details, a short encyclopedic premise is needed.
The definition of community offered by garzanti’s dictionary is a little bit archaic but very clear: “a group of people who lives on the same territory or who has origins, traditions, ideas or common interests.”
The community represents one of the main elements of development in human history. Belonging to a group conceded the safeguarding of our species as well as its evolution. The sharing of perceptions, intuitions, tools, etc permitted us to improve ourselves, to create new and more complex social models and life styles. The confrontation gave energy to our ideas, we explained ourselves, even if sometimes we offended each other, in the end we stood up for each other, we built and improved our habitat, we refined our tools and our lives.
We belong to a community, we have ideas, traditions and common interests and thanks to this physical proximity as well as to the same thought and language we stay united and, consequently, become better each day.
The virtual community, “made” online, has analogous characteristics. It mixes interests, opinions, people and actions. Those people who belong to a community feel they have “something” in common.
I know I repeat myself, but I have to remind our readers how web, as an open system, permits each of us to belong to a network of people in an easy way and free from infrastructures, therefore,to share thoughts and actions with the other cybernauts, known or unknown in the real world, in no time.
The virtual community is, from the sociological and relational point of view, comparable to a real community. It replaces the intensity o a physical contact with the immediacy of a chat or a video and the empathy of a look with the infinite relational weave available online.
Let us go to the point, and that is to our example.
Who among us has never played with the LEGO bricks? For the undersigned, a child in the 1970s, years deprived of video games and commercial television as well as color tv, the LEGO bricks were an explosion of colors, a wall to be climbed with the imagination, they were “my” game.
A game apparently simple, where manual skills and imagination permit a child to plan, create, experience.
In the 1980s and 1990s, LEGO was subject to a strong competition of the interactive games with a “high-technology content”, therefore, a progressive loss of market which put the company in great difficulty.
At the beginning of the 21st century, LEGO, maybe at its height of the financial crisis, tried to reach the young ones with a new product range, the mindstorm LEGO.
The idea, on which the new range is based on, is excellent; it offers a kit for the construction of a robot by mixing bricks and technology.
I suppose the main purpose is to attract the interest of the youngest ones, the preteens, with a complex planning target and a high-level technology in condition to compete with the electronic games.
We live in a world in constant change and, as in this case, may happen that an idea, a production line, turns out to be, from the very beginning, something totally different from what was supposed to and designed for, from what was thought by the LEGO managers as a “good product” for the youngsters.
A different target of consumers, sometimes even older than the one I mantioned before, has adopted these kit and has begun to mix the components creating new innovative forms, new robots.
As a result, a community of planners mindstorm has been created spontaneusly online, capable of subverting the original project, creating new things, sharing them, modifying and remodifying them over and over again.
From what I’ve read on internet, from unreliable sources (who knows, if true), the LEGO leadership didn’t expect this change. It was written that the managers found themselves in great difficulty and that they were thinking of untrusting the work to inventors in training who might well revolutionize the product’s nature.
Later on, or perhaps immediately after, we will never know for sure, the change happened and Lego made room for the mindstorm designers, creating a place only for them as well as additionals features like “Upload your robot” that gave the possibility to present one’s own innovative solution, unique. Today a “mindstormer” can expose his creation, explain how to disassamble it, reassamble it and turn it upside-down or how to create a new robot. In this way a community has been created, a community based on imagination and on originality.
Shortly after, to the community LEGO, were added assemblies organized by the same company, collaborations between LEGO and some of the community’s protagonists as well as the implementation of a new generation of software tools able to create, along with LEGO, new social thematic spaces devoted to the planning.
Today LEGO is a company which has succeeded in loyalizing new consumers, as we may say in jargon, it “repositioned itself” by succeeding in creating new spaces and new opportunities, by listening to the consummers’ wishes and allowing them to express and share their own creativity.
We are dealing with a history 2.0 where internet has functioned as a communication tool and a social network and where the absence of obstacles has permitted the spontaneous creation of a web community capable of sharing a sincere interest, of revolutionizing, renewing and amplifying a trade proposal.
As happens lots of times, the real world didn’t know how to anticipate this necessity, but it was succesful in observing attentively what was going on and, progressively, in becoming an active part of it.
Today LEGO is the propeller of this community of underground designers.
Brick after brick we are building a world more and more 2.0.