Archive for May, 2009
For any of you following the Bright Neighbor project…
Recently, we have had amazing breakthroughs in human communications. We have broken the four-minute mile, and the real-time web of living in the moment has arrived. You can now be instantly witnessed around the world by anyone with a modern communications device. There are useful applications for this technology that can be immediately applied to community-building.
By Randy White
@randywhitepdx and @brightneighbor
The authors of a recent PEW Internet Project report write that
” …developments in social networking and internet applications have begun providing internet users with more opportunities for sharing short updates about themselves, their lives, and their whereabouts online. Users may post messages about their status, their moods, their location and other tidbits on social networks and blogging sites “
The rapid spread of Twitter and Facebook adoption these days is mind-blowing. Twenty percent of online adults 18-34 are on Twitter, and even grandmothers are getting onto Facebook. That is a hefty chunk of the population. While tech-savvy money sharks are figuring out how to carve up profits to be made from selling deep-search stats to Tostitos or whoever, I am thinking about how we can use technology at local levels to deal with economic and ecological collapse. The cool part is that we are starting to quickly track our progress and observe how one’s social influence in a community can help to shape other people’s sustainability actions. Imagine when we will track how neighborly people are:
As exciting as these new technology achievements are, we still have real problems to work out. Families are suffering as relationships are becoming more and more strained by financial pressures. Throughout government, business, and communities – our high standards of living have been supported by cheap, easily available energy. President Obama hasn’t told you the super-bad news about our immediate future. In materialistic terms, we have arrived in the gates of hell and now we get to Tweet each other about it. With a second energy shock and major spike in oil prices on the way, communities need to get prepared. Now.
The problem is that even though so many Americans have cell-phones and blinking blue Borg-like communication contraptions glued to their heads, there are still large swaths of communities across America not taking action to build resiliency at hyper-local levels. And if any new political group was able to actually overthrow the existing Democratic / Republican system – who would pave our roads? How does a society run without money? What is money, really?
It seems we are still in shock and awe that things are so messed up, yet so cool at the same time.
As Americans, we subscribe to a social contract that states to be ‘normal’ we must spend time trying to earn this stuff called money. Since we have to constantly chase the stuff to live comfortable lives, it is literally impossible to get to deeply-know all of our neighbors because there is not enough time or desire to do so. On this planet we are physically limited to caring for small tribes of core humans in our lives. We can’t possibly get to know everyone or have them know us back. But, with technology, we have cobbled together ways to build community relationships while tracking local leadership and involvement in communities at the same time.
The significance of this insight is that we can actually report on local neighborhood influence, carbon emissions saved, energy not used, and many other earth-preserving behaviors. For instance, in the following screenshot, you can see I’m communicating with a local neighborhood organizer, a popular radio DJ, a concerned citizen, and a reporter for the Wall Street Journal.
Marketers pay millions of dollars to achieve the kind of free PR, influence, and tracking now easily achieved for free on the Internet. Money aside – If you can get others to pay attention to you, you can improve your sphere of influence at a hyper local level to achieve sustainability. The idea is to be a local leader and use your results to help others at the national level through showcasing your success. Other influential leaders can easily amplify your message, creating near instant consciousness of thousands of individuals.
In order to focus these breakthroughs, I have been experimenting with ways to use Twitter to track items lent out to neighbors and friends, and many upcoming Bright Neighbor 2.0 features will continue to innovate in these areas. In the meantime, here is a 10-step action plan on how Twitter can help people that live in close proximity to one another get to know one another better:
1) Go to your local neighborhood meetings
This may seem so simple that it’s stupid. Get involved! There is a local neighborhood organization that you can join and if you can’t find one, you can start one. This way you can place faces with people you will be connecting with.
2) Create A group and go back to old-school promotions
Being in a rock band helped me learn this one. If you are ready to be a local leader, then go old-school and hit the streets. Putting flyers up at local shops and into people’s hands still works. The constant real-time flow of communications data goes away in seconds, and if someone has calendared one event and learn via Twitter or whatever where other cool people have gathered – they will alter their plans to go where the people are that can help them advance their social status. Offline flyers help build your online reputation to achieve this by putting your group’s Twitter name or hashtag on the flyer and asking neighbors to join your group.
3) Ride sharing
“Can anyone give me a lift downtown? I’m at the corner of SE 39th and Stark.” If you get a big enough group of followers in your neighborhood, that message could score you a lift if your friends are too lazy or broke to come pick you up.
4) Resource locator
“Does anyone have a ladder I can borrow”? The more you know your neighbors, the more people that will follow you and that will see your plea for help when your bushes go wild and need a trimming. With the ability to add pictures and video to Twitter, soon people will be able to discover a person in close proximity who has what they need and communicate in real time to strike a deal.
5) Saving money
“Does anyone have a coupon they can forward for the India Grill?”
Offering people coupons used to be a paper-only option, and times have made it such that there are multiple online methods to save big money on stuff like:
* Health & Beauty
Because that’s the kind of stuff we humans value right now. And in order to keep getting it, we are looking for ways to save money on it. One way is to call out to our social networks to see if anyone can forward access or knowledge of a money-savings deal without everyone becoming annoyed by cheap people looking for deals.
6) Work with your local government
In Portland, the Office of Emergency Management has set up a Twitter feed. If each neighborhood leader subscribed to the emergency feed and vice-versa, top-down communications could mingle with grassroots reporting to keep communications clear in an emergency.
7) Tap into your neighbor knowledge base
My raspberries developed a bunch of ugly yellow spots on them, and with a click of the camera in my phone, I sent out messages to neighbors and friends asking if they knew what the disease was. While I didn’t get a solid answer back on that try, I found out the solution to the by walking next door and asking my 93-year old neighbor instead. Take care of our old-time gardeners!
8) Give help, get help
As technology allows us to define our roles in society, it also helps define each of us because people are judgmental. The more projects you get involved with, and the more people Tweet about them, the better your Karma Card looks. Your actions and activities are now transparent in real-time and the historical record, and people will be able to see how much you give back in addition to asking for help.
9) Showcase your breakthroughs
Don’t just send out a picture of that new rainwater catchment system you built out of spare parts, invite people over to learn from it! We have so much waste in our system, we can repurpose woods and plastics to help retrofit our homes to prepare for climate change. If it’s too expensive to go buy new stuff like solar arrays or hybrid-cars, then we can help each other by teaching useful, sustainable behaviors that we know how to do. Online video has not yet replaced human-to-human team learning.
10) Make people laugh
Because laughing is a part of healing.
Leaked footage of a street interview with me.