social capital - I do not refer to real estate or cold cash but that which in life tends to make these tangibles count for most
The thing that weaves together my interest in both tangible human scale cities and virtual human scale cities is, in a nutshell, social capital. I’m not that fond of how the word ‘capital’ can connote and reduce personal connections into a mercenary view, but if we don’t get too hung up on that terminology, it can convey the potential of social media in establishing true social networks of people. I glanced over at Wikipedia’s definition of social capital, and extracted the following which does distill the concept well:
In defining the concept, [L.J.] Hanifan contrasts social capital with material goods by defining it as:
“I do not refer to real estate, or to personal property or to cold cash, but rather to that in life which tends to make these tangible substances count for most in the daily lives of people, namely, goodwill, fellowship, mutual sympathy and social intercourse among a group of individuals and families who make up a social unit… If he may come into contact with his neighbor, and they with other neighbors, there will be an accumulation of social capital, which may immediately satisfy his social needs and which may bear a social potentiality sufficient to the substantial improvement of living conditions in the whole community. The community as a whole will benefit by the cooperation of all its parts, while the individual will find in his associations the advantages of the help, the sympathy, and the fellowship of his neighbors (pp. 130-131).”
Jane Jacobs used the term early in the 1960s. Although she did not explicitly define the term social capital her usage referred to the value of networks.
Photo credit: Jane Jacobs, center, at the White Horse Tavern on Hudson Street in Greenwich Village, 1961. Photo by Cervin Robinson
Last Thursday after a leisurely dinner, my roommate (and owner of the home he has graciously allowed me to live in rent-free while I work on an indie project) walked outside our house to accompany our friend to her car and they were engrossed in conversation by the stoop. I stayed indoors.
Soon after, I heard screams and two gunshots.
"Give me everything you’ve got. Out your pockets!" demanded the gunman to my friends.
Just this Mother’s Day, a nineteen-year-old shot nineteen people gathered for a holiday neighborhood parade not too far from us. One of those shooting victims, Deborah Cotton, shared the following statement from the hospital:
“I have known from the moment the shooting happened that I did not want these young men thrown to the wolves,” she said, “and that we have been given yet another opportunity to demonstrate a different way of treating our humanity.”
In a question that seemed directed as much to the city as a whole as to City Hall, she asked: “Do you know what it takes to be so disconnected in your heart that you can walk out into a gathering of hundreds of people who look just like you and begin firing?
“They have been separated from us through so much trauma,” Cotton said, “Now where do we go?” - via The Advocate, May 27, 2013
I have witnessed this you versus them exclusiveness, a sense of segregation and feeling left out of economic and social opportunities in various subtle and not-so-subtle ways both online and offline. This violent outburst is the latest incarnation. In no way could I do this topic justice in one posting, but it gets to the heart of why I am getting back into social media after a hiatus. The roots and origins of a sharing ethos on the Web has been slowly whittled down toward a me, my, and mine hustle self-promotion mindset. A young visitor from Europe commented to me the other day that he hates (and his choice of word was ‘hate’) the Internet as he blames it for destroying humane social interaction.
The essence of what I’d like to engender and encourage cooperatively is boiled down in this excerpt from The Diamond Cutter: The Buddha on Managing Your Business and Your Life, by Michael Roach.
"Give, give, give to others; make sure deals are win-win for both sides. Again, it’s not the amount of money involved, it’s maintaining—all day long—a truly generous, creative, flowing state of mind that wants to see everybody prosper. Ben Franklin was perhaps the greatest statesman, scientist, and businessperson in America’s history—and his response to competition was to invite all his competitors to join a new society called a Chamber of Commerce, dedicated to finding ways together to expand markets, and make everybody involved richer.
This kind of thinking by itself creates powerful imprints in all the people involved, by the way. A group of businesspeople can, by acting in cooperation with one another, create imprints in each of their minds to see a common reality such as an expanding market. No problem. It’s not, incidentally, that imprints can be shared or transferred to another person—they can’t. Rather, a group of people acting in a concerted charitable way create imprints that flower as a shared experience such as a successful company or a more prosperous nation. And this in fact is why some countries are more affluent than others—but that’s a little big for us to talk about here. Anyway, if you think about the principle you can get some pretty amazing understandings about wealth on a global scale. “
Corey from Ignite Vegas just invited me in an authentically written, personable email (aside: get dozens of press release and mass invitations per day that I delete, and only respond to people) to speak at their 3rd Ignite event (I can’t attend, as I’m in New Orleans). I’d totally forgotten what I submitted back on December 14, 2011 (wasn’t a go back then) and pulled up the original email proposal—and am pasting it below. Still relevant I think:
Cyberspace + Meatspace: Mashups that Transform Mere Space into Deep Sense of Place
This talk will be a rapid-fire neighborly photowalk of past and present examples to making the real-life knock-knock-knock tangible world we live, eat, barter, bake, breathe, and play and partake in even better. Through the collaboration of virtual and real space we can rise to the challenge to create human-scale places with a palpable and pulsing community spirit. For instance, two slides might include these examples:
In Utrecht, The Netherlands an urban game design studio made a game: “We challenged ourselves to design a game for the [troubled] area of Hoograven which would function as an intervention of sorts. The game would be a short-term event that would hopefully have a positive effect on the neighborhood on the longer term. We aimed to connect residents through light-weight, casual play.”
In Brixton, UK, a local Meetup.com group got together “most months there were twenty of us: artists, activists, social-media people , architects, think-tankers, squatters.” Their group picked up momentum and convinced the owners of a nearly-vacant marketplace to “to fund a competition, making shops available for up to three months, rent free, to people who submitted the best ideas. The initiative kicked off with a freewheeling open house. “A week later, we had ninety-eight proposals, some for temporary creative and community projects, others with longer-term business plans,” Hine says. The result? Nine months later, Granville Arcade, as it’s locally known, is thriving. Eight of the businesses originally selected for the competition remain; the rest of the shops are leased to new tenants.”
TELL US WHY YOUR SESSION IS GONG TO BE AWESOME!
I have a passion for places that are fun, vibrant, innovative and neighborly to live in and the grassroots collaborations in which people make a place lively and welcoming. I’ve lived in urban San Francisco, Oakland, Chicago, Brooklyn, New Orleans, and am now residing in Las Vegas. And I adore the Internet (began working as a computer engineer in the Internet industry in 1993; later, included the company that held the patent for online shopping cart.) However… I’m saddened how often the Internet is cited as if it were an enemy of real-life connections and real places as if it were the wedge driving people apart, and tearing social cohesion (and I’m not going to quote Bowling Alone here).
So I’d like to show and tell how the Internet is used and can be used more as an ALLY in placemaking, and also challenge all of us to design for BOTH rich online and offline experiences. Why not just enrich life and our lives, and never mind the distinction of virtual or geographical.
Today alone, I read these stories (and no I wasn’t hunting for them, just normal course of a day) which seem to challenge my underlying premise, that technology especially the Internet, can be used to strengthen interpersonal and community bonds making for vibrant living conditions.
"Sometimes you can live without food," Tiongson said. "But you can’t live in isolation, and that’s what I’m going through. It’s been very difficult for me." -http://www.lvrj.com/view/solitary-holidays-organization-gives-hope-to-area-s-struggling-residents-135491353.html
"One of Facebook’s main selling points is that it builds closer ties among friends and colleagues. But some who steer clear of the site say it can have the opposite effect of making them feel more, not less, alienated." - http://www.cnbc.com/id/45659248 (read it in today’s Las Vegas Sun originally)
"I was walking the dog in the park the other day and saw a father pushing his little girl on a swing. It was a lovely sight until I realized Dad was checking his BlackBerry while he was pushing. Is there any way you can give that little girl her father back? She’ll be gone before he knows it." - http://www.usatoday.com/life/columnist/finalword/story/2011-12-14/final-word-craig-wilson/51888056/1
As far as experience on stage: I spoke at IgniteNOLA (New Orleans) in February 2010. I have in the past, spoken at BlogHer, NewComm Forum, SxSW and other Internet conferences. (Here’s a link to transcript to one talk I gave on blogging in business in 2005, http://evelynrodriguez.typepad.com/crossroads_dispatches/2005/08/business_bloggi.html).
There’s also more about me (if you need a bio or overview) at http://evelynrodriguez.typepad.com/about.html (although much of that is obsolete, it does have accurate backstory) and on Google+ http://gplus.to/eve11, Tumblr panmesa.tumblr.com, and Twitter @eve11
Photo credit: Flickr via Knight Foundation. Local currency urban game in Macon, GA. According to the Knight Foundation (funders): “Macon Money is a social game helping people connect with their neighbors in Macon, Ga.”
Lewis Mumford, The City In History
Instead of adding Facebook friends online, we were actually making friends in person, often over a cup of hot “chai”. Life around us came alive in a new way.
A walking pace is the speed of community. Where high speeds facilitate separation, a slower pace gifts us an opportunity to commune."
Beautiful talk! Distills why I value walkable neighborhoods, literally and figuratively, offline and online. Plus, Nipun walks the walk—I’ve bused and walked to his and his family’s open-to-public, free weekly Wednesday meditation and supper at their Santa Clara home many times.