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Barn raising

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BarnRaising occurs when a community actively decides to come to the same place at the same time to help achieve some specific goal. The goal may be of direct interest to a subset of the community, such as raising a new barn for an individual CommunityMember, or it may be a SuperordinateGoal, of interest to the entire community, such as a new school. Make the impossible possible. It's pretty much impossible for one person to raise a barn. The main part of the process is taking two framed walls that have been built lying on the ground and raising them to vertical. Thus BarnRaising demands collaboration in a way that other activities do not.

Make friends. A barn raising tends to be a situation where you raise the walls of a barn, then you have a big party with everyone who's around. That's where the social aspect of it comes from. Lift some walls, rejoice and dance.

Benefits to the community, and to the individuals involved:[edit]

A typical BarnRaising generates a sense of accomplishment within a short period of time. This is a Collaboration Booster, and generates good will. The people helping expect to learn about how to raise barns, and other Community Lore, which will help them when it comes to their own barn. Barn raising is fun, as a social event! Having a barn to raise does more than just get people together and let them talk. It gives them something to talk about. When the tables are turned, the barn owner does the same for anyone else. When the entire town helps someone build a barn, then that person is beholden to the entire town, so it creates new and strengthens existing social bonds. It keeps the collective healthy. When your neighbour is tied up working on her own barn, little time and attention is available to the community. When she gets her own problems solved quickly, she can attend to the needs of the community. Other ways people can collaborate and get a sense of community:

Asynchronously. Asynchronous collaboration liberates us from the need of proximity, but it also weakens the bond. When the work is done, you're drinking alone and you have no one to dance with. Without an active decision to collaborate. Incidental collaboration requires less planning, but can only raise smaller barns.

Wikis and BarnRaising[edit]

Wikis thrive on asynchronous, gradual improvement, and BarnRaising events are rare, but important. Some tentative experiments with coordinating community action on MeatBall can be seen on BarnRaisingNominations. There is also a BarnStar award for exceptional BarnRaising.

BarnRaising is part of the difference between SlashDot and wiki. With SlashDot the barn is already raised - the OpeningStatement already written - before you start, and everyone just sits around bitchin' about it.

BarnRaising is not ChurchRaising?. Although often it is valuable to build an immaculate example of some ideal or utopian philosophy, these projects often require a large investment and religious zeal to hold them together. We DefendAgainstPassion. Sure, churches are often beautiful, but they are impractical en masse. Conversely, barns are practical, functional, cheap, full of horseshit, and you don't need to be a hallowed Prophet to make one. We prefer barns to churches here.

However, BarnRaising does requires humility, trust, accountability, commitment, and sacrifice from and among its community. Because these seem to be found only in communities bound by family or religion, this presents an instructive example if only we can sort out why some religious communities become impractical and fall apart while others make the impossible possible. Churchs have something we don't, yet. We should learn from them. They could certainly learn from us.

BarnRaising is not GroupThink. The individual grants the collective influence over how she acts, but not how she thinks. Each barn raiser's motivation may differ, so it doesn't matter (for now) if the community disagrees as to the purpose of the barn, provided that it agrees that a barn is necessary.

BarnRaising is about sharing effort, not the barn. To be sure, sometimes we create a building to be used by the whole community, or for purely charitable purposes. Other times we build a barn for a single mommunity member, so he can raise some chickens. Different barns have different purposes, so just because something was communally built doesn't mean that any old cowboy can ride in and stable his horse in it.

Real life examples[edit]

I've no personal experience with barn raising but with the Austrian variation of it: "house building". I'll tell a short story. When I was 10 year old my brother-in-law built his house in a rural village. He was the son of a farmer and although he worked as a manager for the car manufacturer Porsche he was still considered part of the rural community. When someone builds his house - and everybody will do sooner or later - his family, the friends and neighbours will help to keep costs down. Houses are built from bricks and are pretty expensive to build (about $300.000-400.000) using paid professionals. You can cut these costs to about $150.000 if you do the simpler tasks yourself. Of course everyone is expected to help when it is his turn. But my family who had lived in Salzburg (about 140.000 inhabitants) for generations wasn't even aware of this. In the village of Strobl it was considered unjust that only half of the family would help building the house. So I was asked to contribute for my family. For a weekend I worked there, helping to isolate the roof (I was pretty good at nailing) and carrying the materials to various workers. What seems important to me is the amount of "obligation" that this process contains. You are expected to help and you can count on help. There is a measureable advantage for everyone by taking part in this form of cooperation. It would be good to have similar cooperation in the online comunities. Currently we typically do not have it. When I build a wiki and ask for help, the chance is high that I won't get help. It seems that there is little trust that we will remember the help and will give it back when it's our turn. That's a pity and we should think about ways to change this. -- HelmutLeitner

Last weekend I went to a real, live BarnRaising at AngelicOrganics? farm in Caledonia, IL, USA. They're a CommunitySupportedAgriculture? farm (organic veggies paid in advance in the winter, delivered weekly throughout summer and fall) that also hosts the CSA Learning Center which has tons of educational programs. This new barn will be used for the CSA Learning Center. Anyway, they used the week before the raising for a workshop on how-to frame a barn. They had about a dozen people working on it all week. The idea was to use a mortis and tenon system (think slot and tab) to build a barn using hand tools and no nails, bolts, etc. When we (the 50 or 60 of us participating in the BarnRaising itself on Saturday) arrived Saturday morning, we found wood all over the place, some looking like it could be a wall, others clearly just stacked up awaiting some other purpose (you can tell I'm an expert, no?). After introductions and a safety lecture, we were assigned roles we'd perform to raise the first wall. Some people pulled ropes on the block and tackle system, some held pike poles (wood poles with sharp metal spikes on the end) of various lengths with which they'd be able to push on the wall higher up than could be reached by arms alone, some held onto the backup rope that would prevent the wall from going over too far and falling on the other side and a few other seemingly minor roles. What was cool was that the wall was incredibly heavy, but with everyone together, no one had to strain to pick up the wall and raise it into position. After the first wall was up (in less than a minute from when we actually started lifting), we just held it there while the people that knew what they were doing secured it with wood nailed in on an angle to temporary spikes driven into the ground. There was a lot of standing around at this point. In fact, there was a lot of standing around all day, which made it quite a social event and a lot of fun. Inbetween raising walls, you could certainly keep busy if you wanted to but there wasn't an expectation of that and while sometimes someone would ask you to do something, lounging around was mostly the norm for most people except during the raising of each wall. The organic lunch and dinner were fantastic, but what was better was the sensation of being able to help on a task that was incredibly complicated and not at all understood by me, but my presence was very useful. Good stuff all around. --TedErnst

Historical Framework[edit]

The term "barn raising" dates to the construction of barns in the 18th and 19th centuries in rural America (U.S. and Canada). In this era, barns were the first, largest, and most costly structure built by a family who settled in a new area. Barns were considered essential structures for storage of hay and keeping of horses and cattle, which in those days were an inseperable part of farming. The tradition of "barn raising" continues, more or less unchanged, in some Amish and Mennonite communities, particularly in Ohio and some rural parts of Canada.

The event[edit]

In this sense, a barn raising was and is a one or two day event during which a community comes together to assemble a barn for one of its members. A certain amount of preparation is done beforehand. Lumber and hardware are laid in, plans are made, ground is cleared, tradesmen are hired.

Materials are purchased or traded for by the family who will own the barn once it is complete.

Generally, participation is mandatory for community members. These participants are not paid. All able-bodied members of the community are expected to attend. Failure to attend a barn raising without the best of reasons leads to censure within the community. Some specialists brought in from other communities for direction or jointery may be paid, however.

A power structure is present. There is one person in charge of the whole thing, who is often paid. Older people who have participated in many barn raisings are crew chiefs. On the whole, the affair is well organized. At most barn raisings, the community has raised barns before and is able to approach the task with experience both in the individual tasks and the necessary organization. Young people participating meaningfully for the first time have watched many barn raisings and know what is expected of them.

Only certain specialists are permitted to work on the more critical jobs, such as the jointery and dowling of the beams. There is competition for these jobs, and they are sought after. There are gender roles. Women provide water and food. Men do the work. Children watch; boys fetch parts and tools.

Social framework[edit]

Communities raised barns because many hands were required. In areas that were sparsely settled or on the edge of the frontier, it was not possible to hire carpenters or other tradesmen to build a barn. The harsher winters gave more urgency to the matter of barn construction than was present in the relatively milder climate in Europe.

Barn raisings occured in a social framework with a good deal of interdependence. Members of rural communities often shared family bonds going back generations. They traded with each other, buying and selling land, labor, seed, cattle, and the like. They worshiped together. They partied together, because cities were too far away to visit with any frequency on horseback. Despite traditions of independence, self-sufficiency, and refusal to incur a debt to another, barn raisings with the free labor in return for a nebulous future commitment were necessary.

Contrast with church construction[edit]

Chuches were considered as important to communities of the 18th and 19th century as were barns. In like fashion, they were often constructed using unpaid community labor. There were important differences. Churches were not constructed with the same degree of urgency, and were most often built of native stone -- a more durable material than the wood of which barns were made, and more time consuming to lay. Barns, once completed, belonged to an individual family, while churches belonged to the community.

End of an era[edit]

Barn raising as a method of providing construction labor had become rare by the close of the 19th century. By that time, most frontier communities already had barns and those that did not were constructing them using hired labor. Mennonite and Amish communities carried on the tradition, however, and continue to do so to this day.

Group construction by volunteers enjoyed something of a resurgence during the 1970s, when houses, sheds, and barn-shaped structures were constructed for all manner of purposes except, of course, the keeping of livestock for a profit.

original content from MeatballWiki

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