The part I am focussing on is what form communities take, and how that has an influence on their function.
More and easier communication has enabled specialised 'virtual' communities to evolve. I'm thinking along the lines of newsgroups here. These communities typically allow a great focus on some specific aspect which is the central reason for the community's existence. These groups provide much in the way of a source of (mostly free) expertise on their subject of choice. These virtual communities also allow people to freely choose to become part of the community. This is an important distinction from the traditional local-geographical community, which is defined by the extents of local geography and amenities' spheres of infleunce, etc.
Due to the simultaneous improvements in ease and cost of transport, the more traditional local-geographic community has certainly suffered as a result, as I have put across in previous discussions.
There are two arguments I want to put forward here. Firstly, I believe it is dangerous to favour 'virtual', or more precisely: communities whose members are free to choose whether they belong to them or not - over the more traditional local-geographic community.
What sparked this off is the webpage I linked to about the new proposed patent laws suggests that patent law has gone mad because the patent lawyers are operating as a closed group:
"A closed community of patent lawyers is creating, breaking and rewriting its own rules without much supervision from the outside."
But thinking about this more broadly, it can apply to any group of people, large or small. Take the USA and its foreign affairs policies, which have come under heavy criticism by not only people outside USA, but also from people inside the USA!
The reason I think it is dangerous is that I don't believe that human nature and the nature of human interaction is effective or cohesive enough to work at a global level, or indeed more than a community of the traditional sense (ie. locally). I don't think others do either, which is why we have (democratically) elected spokespersons to act as a coherent focal point to voice our concerns through. There does not seem to be a clear channel for feedback on concerns to be received. I believe this contributes to the isolation of communities from each other, aggravating or in some cases outright generating some of the problems we see in society today.
From the other angle, it becomes all too easy to lose perspective when you are able to choose your communities, which leads me on to the second point in my argument.
I believe too much choice promotes the stifling of diversity. Nature itself uses diversity to promote strength through resilience. I don't believe ignoring this fact will be beneficial to society in general.
Am I making too much of this? I don't think so. I believe communities (in whatever form they take) form the basis of interactions with other people. Sure, by all means pick and choose your friends. But don't let that blinker you into believing that the only opinions that are valid or relevant are those of you and your friends.