Jacobs, from time to time, brings up the distinction between large cities and smaller towns. The main difference between the two is the number of people, implying a tipping point of community involvement for behavior to adhere to complex system methods.
The comparison, and how she words it, makes me think of a related distinction – that of open vs closed online communities of practice. The description of how smaller towns run better on gossip, reputation and approval/disapproval opinion rings true of closed educational communities. I suspect this may be especially true where major of players know each other, and even originate, from outside of that online presence.
Smaller online, closed communities will often try to embrace the complexity of the larger social networks…yet, they’re still very much run by the connections of ‘gossip and reputation’ behind the scenes. As Jacobs suggests, this local knit method may be best, however problems arise when communities try to mix the two.
It’s that ugly “dishonest mask of pretend order” again. Although, I don’t expect the whole dishonest thing is intentional – it’s a genuinely tough to balance encapsulation and high, authentic activity in a closed community.