Originally published June 18, 2023
Liminal Community Spaces
The concept of and acceptance of liminal spaces are often comfortable yet full of struggle, strife, and confusion. The term liminality originates from anthropology by way of the cultural anthropologist Victor Turner (further reading), influenced by the work of ethnographer and folklorist Arnold van Gennep, the act of facing or being between one space or another. Metaphorically or literally, standing in front of a threshold of uncertainty.
We’ve all been through many liminal spaces or rites of passage throughout our lives. I’ve been through unimaginable liminality at different stages that have tested my resolve, patience, fear, doubt, and character - particularly since entering web3 but many times since.
When have you experienced liminality in your own life? How has it shaped you?
Personal Experiences With Liminality
When exploring these phenomena, the terms “liminoid” and “communitas” are rarely seen in media and memes. As Turner discusses, liminoid refers to an experience or activity that simulates the liminal state, often in a less intense or official manner, like playing a game or attending a concert. Communitas refers to the sense of community and togetherness that develops during these in-between states.
These transitory states have been part of many stages of my life, through a literal transition of gender, now five years in, and through various smaller aspects of life, such as phases of being interested in one genre of music or film or another.
These personal experiences of transition, both big and small, have given me a unique perspective on liminality.
Each week I have the privilege of speaking with many people in the web3 space who are experiencing one liminoid space or another. Uncertainty, especially felt during a bear market, puts many in situations where they feel lost. We fear going through one threshold or another out of fear of failure or facing the unknown.
However, human nature both loves and hates the idea of failure—the unknown of stepping through a darkened void, not knowing what will happen on the other side. These liminal spaces are endless in web3 and emerging tech spaces.
Embracing Communitas In Web3
In relation to the blockchain and web3 spaces we exist in today and for the past decade, this notion of communitas, being in community with those in liminal states. This is the essence, the spirit of togetherness shared by those transitioning through liminal life periods. Where folks come together, stripped of social norms, to bond on equal ground.
Though this state of communitas is typically temporary, it leaves a lasting impact. This is the reason for continued bonding in and outside of the roles we see ourselves move through in the space as we travel from startup to startup to new and exciting roles and pull back from others, finding ourselves back at a threshold once more.
Communitas is often restorative, even healing at times. Where a structure is about order, hierarchy, and differentiation, communitas is about equality, immediacy, and togetherness.
In Cloud Scouts, we share an identity of innovation, exploration, and collaboration. Scouts often discuss their feelings on the uncertainty faced in the space and utilize the community of experienced builders who can walk alongside them through difficult trials.
We create a sense of communitas through shared rituals like our bi-weekly Troop Chat and belonging by holding space for all members regardless of region, age, denomination, or gender. This opens the stage for vulnerability and understanding through togetherness guided by a strong bond connected by technology.
Struggle Through Liminal States
It is not any one person’s duty or service to solve the problems of someone going through a liminal period. Our shared responsibility is to hold and support one another through these times. When I first came out, I cried constantly, fluctuating between happiness and anger, fulfillment and strife. However, no one could dare solve these problems for me - it is an internal struggle.
Imagine someone going through a period of transition. It is our duty to get on the back of a metaphorical tandem bike with them, not the front. We are not to steer but to pedal alongside them, to walk with them through the difficult times and see them through the struggle.
I’ve recently found myself in one of these liminal states while at the same time guiding and supporting others through their own. This seems to be a space I’ve found comfort in throughout many periods of liminality.
Through my teenage years in traditional scouting and later adulthood being a mother to those transitioning themselves, I am now a leader of an online space for web3 scouting with Cloud Scouts. Guiding folks through liminal periods of life as a community builder, a people manager, and now as a founder has been a deeply fulfilling part of my life.
We create unity by passing through liminal spaces together. These build onto our collective stories.
Consider the times you have faced struggle, fear, and uncertainty when being presented with a personal liminoid space. Who or what helped guide you through the doubt?
For further reading, check out From Ritual to Theather: The Human Seriousness of Play by Victor Turner.