Functions of Management
Author: Jayna al'Taryn
The fantasy series by Robert Jordan entitled The Wheel of Time has sparked the imagination of readers around the world; in effect, creating a huge dedicated fan base. The White Tower at www.tarvalon.net is an unofficial web community founded upon one specific element within the story, namely the White Tower, the home and center of the Aes Sedai. The inspiration for the development of this site came about when a couple of friends decided, "[they] wanted to create the White Tower" (The Amyrlin's Study, May 1, 2001). Considering there were already many Wheel of Time fan pages already in existence. It became necessary to find a way to add a new dimension to make the site unique. The founder of tarvalon.net accomplished this by following the organization in the series and creating the individual Ajah pages. It quickly became apparent however, that they would need some sort of overall organizing structure to keep track of the various Ajah pages and their individual content. Consequently, the White Tower at tarvalon.net was born. Through planning, organization, leadership and control, the White Tower has grown from its humble beginnings of a few friends trying to keep in touch on a few individual boards, to an expansive network of nearly three hundred active members in two years, that are about ready to sprawl out of the Tower itself into a virtual city of Tar Valon.
The Amyrlin Seat, the head of tarvalon.net, Eleyan Al'Landerin Sedai* planned the structure of the Tower hoping one day to include events such as real life get-togethers, competitions centered around community service, and eventually to take over the world-or at least the online WoT community part of the world anyway (The Amyrlin's Study, May 1, 2001). As the Tower began to grow from its humble beginnings, Eleyan Sedai realized that in order to maintain her vision of her site, some clear-cut guidelines were going to be needed. She felt the structure of the series could work, applied that structure to her site, and implemented a comprehensive Tower Charter. The Tower Charter grows and changes as the site grows and changes and has now become The Constitution of the Confederate Sites of tarvalon.net, a.k.a. the Tower Law. This document is a complete document explaining the goals, vision, and purpose of the site; along with outlining the ranking structure, rules and regulations for all members and ranks, outlining and describing all officers and administrative positions with clear definitions of responsibilities, and defines responsibilities for all members of the site at each level. Eleyan Sedai and several of her officers work many long hours to keep the site running smoothly and maintaining its original focus of a community of friends. An annual Tower Council meets with Eleyan Sedai to discuss areas that are no longer working effectively, or are contrary to the original vision, and to plan changes in site design, Tower Law, or whatever changes need to be addressed to maintain the site.
Eleyan Sedai, affectionately called "Mother" by most members of her site, is the main driving force behind maintaining the sites vision. Her commitment, eloquence, grace, and hands on approach to tarvalon.net make it a haven away from daily stresses for many people. Her desire to represent what it means to be Aes Sedai shows in the attention she showers on the site. Furthermore, she inspires her members to be a close-knit community of tolerant and respectful friends, encouraging them to contribute to the overall quality of the site through their affiliations with one of the smaller sites that make up tarvalon.net. These smaller sites consist of the individual seven Ajahs for those women desiring to become Aes Sedai, as well as the three Companies for the men desiring to become Gaidin.
Each Ajah and Company is responsible for maintaining their own website called a Headquarters. One of the Ajahs, the White Ajah, is based on the same concept from the book and is dedicated to logic-preferring reasoning to emotion. The function of the White Ajah at tarvalon.net is predominately centered on the theories sections of the site. Members often attempt to figure out what the author may do to resolve certain prophecies, figure out who are the bad guys in disguise, and explain how certain events may have come about. Concurrently, the many of the White sisters have their own pet projects that are being developed. The Head of the White Ajah, Arthaine Dasin Sedai*, has responsibilities that are laid out in the Tower Constitution, but for the most part she has free reign to develop her area of the site as she sees fit with the Amyrlin having some say to make sure all fits within the overall scope of the White Tower. Being one of the smaller Ajahs in the Tower, most problems and decisions in the White Ajah are made by a consensus of the Ajah members fairly quickly. Other than looking to help the Amyrlin take over the world, most members do not have defined duties to the site, but are free to explore their own interests. Arthaine Sedai encourages this exploration by her own dedication to the Forsaken Pages, and representing what it means to by a White sister at tarvalon.net: friendly, intelligent, and humorous.
The main responsibility of all members of tarvalon.net is to lead by example, maintaining the standards of the Amyrlin's vision, and helping where, when and how they can. Sometimes this is by helping to design web pages or adding specific content to the site, sometimes by being able to provide comfort to a member having a hard day, sometimes by checking the boards to make sure all the links go where they should, sometimes by reminding newer members about the rules of respect in a global community, sometimes by pulling harmless pranks and causing general "humorous" insanity. As a member of the site, I am currently working on learning enough HTML to design my "study" in the White Headquarters. I mainly try to uphold the standards of the site, and keep myself available to help out as needed. I am hoping once the City is up and running that there will be more administrative positions that will open up that I can apply for and take a more defined role within the organization.
The tarvalon.net community is beginning to achieve some incredible things. In the first community service competition the Tower "logged over five hundred hours in four weeks" (Al'Landerin, Feb. 28, 2003). The Second Anniversary Party being held in "real life" in Tennessee will by attended by more than sixty active members. In less than two weeks the beginnings of the City of Tar Valon will be introduced to ease the congestion of the Tower, designed by members of the site and hosted on its own server provided by another tower member. I plan to be around to witness tarvalon.net take over the world, or at least the online world anyway.
*Tower names were used, because I didn't want to use real life names without permission, which I haven't received.