Jonathan Salem Baskin

Implicit Community

Today, an implicit community was defined.

When the Bill of Rights was ratified on this day in 1791, the first ten amendments were added to the American Constitution (the Constitution having been adopted only four years earlier). Principled and quite heated debate had gone on for just over nine months, and involved both the Founding Fathers (many of whom were still having trouble with the Constitution), and the rising stars of the next generation of American governance. Twelve amendments were originally under consideration, but the one about regulating raises for members of Congress didn’t make the cut (it would later be ratified as the 27th Amendment in 1992).

What’s notable about the Bill of Rights is that it mostly defines who can’t do what, or what can’t happen to whom. It informs the community with authority by denying such power, assigning limits to its institutional behavior as a way to affirm the rights of individuals. What the community will not be is explicit; what it will do, how it will function, what it will produce, and where it will go are only implicit in the bill. Like the Constitution, it looks to the past to try and impede its repeat, which since then has led to its additional amendments, dictated by the lessons of ongoing experience.

The Constitution succeeds as an experiment in social experience because it leaves future experience utterly unscripted.

Here’s the link to Today in the Histories of Social Media, and this is the latest edition of Histories of Social Media