Participation's value in a community

In Wenger's first chapter, the author defines participation as interacting with others. When I initially read this definition, I instantly thought of our group's attempt to define community, identity, and design. Is someone a member of a community without participation? Are there layers of community based on participation? Does it exist as a continuum based on the level of participation? Wenger mentions how a computer isn't a participant but a dog would be, implying that a dog would be part of the community, having some effect on an aspect of the community. Our group discussed whether an onlooker would be a member of a community. To provide a more concrete example, think of a classroom. A class consists of a mixture of people that have varying levels of participation. Is someone who has a lower level of participation if any participation at all a member of the community? Does the level of participation create a hierarchy of value or status within the community, meaning the more you participate, the more you are valued in the community? In Chapter 2, discussion of participation as contributing to identity occurs. While I agree with this notion, I still have wonderings about community and participation. I'm thinking that the level of participation shapes your identity within the community thus impacting your role/status/value within the community???