TED Conversations

Ziska Childs

Freelancer, united scenic artists


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How do we get back the neighborhood?

Of course I'm referencing the 2012 TED prize The talk which inspired this question has been posted: Jen Pahlka talking about "Peace Corps for Geeks" aka- coding for government. One of the ideas in that talk which resonated for me was it's not about making the bureaucracy easier- it's about solving the problems. More often than not that means getting the bureaucracy out of the way and letting people be neighborly. "Adopt a fire hydrant"- shovel it out when there's a snow storm. That's pretty simple stuff and it promotes Community - with an upper case "C".

I've seen my own home town go from a place where I could walk to everything (the butcher the baker the candlestick maker) to one where there are 30,000 vehicle round trips a day. This is for a town of 6000 residents. The service providers drive in and out for work. The residents drive out and in to go to school, the hospital, the rec center and to find lower priced goods. Employee housing (also out of town-but closer) has resulted in a boost for the construction industry which increases the service trips in and out. Placing a transfer tax on real estate has favored flipping and cowboy development. I only mention this to emphasize that treating the symptom doesn't work and the unintended consequences can be devastating.

So, how do we get back the neighborhood? How do we get back the Community?


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    Mar 21 2012: I'd like to spin off of the ideas Pat and Spencer were mentioning. This is a bottom-up approach. Who's at the bottom? The people. The individuals. Technology is an enabler of the individual... if implemented correctly. Government has (clearly) lost that ability because of it's 'intangible' process of operation (bureaucracy).

    So how do we get back the community, you ask? We have to empower individuals to do what is good for their communities. We cannot expect government to do it. There are two high-level problems that I have concluded with this:

    1) People have lost the knowledge required to do such things
    2) People are not motivated (or given enough face-value incentive) to make the leap of taking action

    If we can provide an accessible web experience that begins to answer those two problems, I believe we can start to generate interest in a new form of 'technologically local' community.
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      Mar 21 2012: Tim are you talking about gamification of local services?
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        Mar 22 2012: Not exactly. I ended with the statement I did because I am into the design/technology/web industries, but there's much more to consider than just one topic.

        I see gamification as a trending interest. It's newer, and people haven't had that perspective before. Speaking generally, however, games can serve as a subset of research for a higher-level field of psychology. Take for instance design with intent (http://www.danlockton.com/dwi/Main_Page). With this, the focus is on the psychology of behavior change. It just so happens that games have been using a set of these design with intent lenses that Dan Lockton studies. That leaves more lenses yet to consider.

        When we take the view that this is a whole field of psychology, then it's apparent that technology is simply a subset tool to be used for behavior change (and gamification a subset of that). There are other tools as well that can assist behavior change. This is why Mark Raymond, in "Victim of a City", brings the discussion about the psychology of architecture (again, generalizing). And wouldn't you know, Dan Lockton has a lens for that! Architecture as a tool for behavior change. This is also what Steve Johnson, in "Where Good Ideas Come From", addresses. Johnson also goes a step further, however and grounds the idea with the way biology functions. This, in my opinion, brings someone like myself back to ideas about technology.

        Technology allows us to network like our biology intends us to. It can empower us, in such ways as Jennifer Pahlka, in "Coding a Better Government", suggests. Why can it do this? Because it networks us. It puts us in, or mimics the likeness of, an environment to create new ideas. It may not be the exact local communities that we remember, but at least it might be the start of something more meaningful than what we have.

        Hopefully this clarifies/expands my previous message. I'll gladly try again if it doesn't!
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          Mar 22 2012: Interesting thesis. As a Scenographer it's all about supporting the central idea of the performance while serving the needs of the script. The major goal is to allow the audience to listen. This means you are very concerned with focus. We become sensitive to visual cuing- very sensitive. Visual cuing is always contingent on "intent". If it doesn't make sense the audience won't believe it.

          But I digress.

          From Shakespeare to Chekov. "Deeds not Words"

          Perhaps it's the town square we need as much as the coffee shop. I know I meet a lot of people in the downtown park. The park serves as a playing field, a performance space, fair ground and a dog park. One side is a pedestrian mall. You can walk to fast food, slow food and shops but on 3 sides you can park your car. This works pretty well for meeting people in a friendly way.
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      Mar 31 2012: Hi Tim

      I don't see the technology as a bad idea. I don't see the environment as a bad idea, James Q Wilson did a lot in this area and they were very much deeds not words.

      But I think that it has to be about purpose. A meeting has to have purpose or goal which is the reason for the gathering. Otherwise it is just to socialize which is fine but not a real driving force.
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        Mar 31 2012: I'm looking for a City where people care about each other and their City. Socialization is one of the best goals there is. It's the driving force behind a platoon of soldiers, a team of ballplayers, a business, a family- if you don't care about the people in your "group" you won't do anything with them or for the "group". It's where you learn politeness, cooperation, loyalty, communication- which are all basic to living and working together.
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          Mar 31 2012: No its not.

          The purpose of the soldiers is to win the war, the purpose of the ball players is to win the game or be champions, the purpose of the business is to help the customer (it is not to make money as the customer could not care less if the business makes any money), the purpose of a family is to reproduce.

          Yes other benefits/dynamics of the relationship are manners, cooperation, communication, etc. but they are not the purpose.

          When a business is expanding and producing and organizing that is a sight to behold and that is absolutely about purpose. "“If you hire people just because they can do a job, they’ll work for your money. But if you hire people who believe what you believe, they’ll work for you with blood and sweat and tears.”" — Simon Sinek

          When a country does what the United States did in world war 2 stopping oppression in 2 theaters simultaneously, that was about purpose the greatest purpose of all survival of the planet a side product of which I might add were some of the finest individuals I have ever had the pleasure of meeting because of this purpose.

          Landing on the moon 10 yrs after the goal was set the goal was met that was about purpose and very definitely something to be hold.

          I have yet to see a superstar of sports announce his retirement who was not in tears people like Mike Singletary, Jack Lambert, Dick Butkus, how could this be some of the toughest football players ever to play the game, it is about them following their calling.
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        Mar 31 2012: That's a top down philosophy.

        "In the heat of battle it ceases to be an idea for which we fight. Or a flag. Rather we fight for the man on our left, and we fight for the man on our right."
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          Mar 31 2012: Yes to the extent that there has to be a purpose and yes top down does have it's place but what is sorely missing these days is the bottom up.

          The reason they are there at all is the purpose which does apply to any group.
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        Mar 31 2012: I'll go right back to my "happiness" (pursuit of) corner. It should be the prime purpose to a civilized society. Without contact, without community, it's very difficult to achieve any purpose or to have more happy days than sad days.

        In referencing my (no-military- but military based) training in Outward Bound and National Outdoor Leadership School- it's about teambuilding . All of the exercises for creating a cohesive successful response to natural and man made challenges were based on teambuilding- and - in the case of Outward Bound - creating situations which seem insurmountable but are survivable if tackled as a team. It seems to me that this tactic would also work for building a successful community. Can I tell you the ideology of this team? No. But I can tell you the elements which create a successful team. Shared experience shoots right to the head of the list. It can be a shared meal, shared education, shared fear or shared joy- all of this works to build community (aka "team"). What I know does *not* build a thriving community is isolation and intolerance.
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          Mar 31 2012: Are you saying there is no I in Team?

          All I can say is I don't agree, you mentioned somewhere the idea of does it work doesn't it?
          In other words does gregariousness work or does purpose work? is gregariousness a product of purpose or is purpose a product of gregariousness?

          I tend to look at people or groups as to whether their purpose aligns with mine or not. Which has me questioning the purpose of TED.

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