Thursday, January 12, 2006

Future Cities event

This looks like it could be interesting-- impressive line up of speakers...
The Future of Community festival is a day long event on Saturday, March 4th, 2006 at the Central St Martins College of Art and Design, Holborn, London and the MA Creative Practice for Narrative Environments. (Tickets £15- £35, depending on who's paying).

Of particular interest to readers of this blog is one session entitled 'Virtual Communities versus Physical Realities'. Description below. My thoughts after.

Cabinet Office's e-Envoy has suggested that 'the UK Villages initiative is a great example of how the internet can be used to make connections within and between communities.' In internet discourse, many people claim that by networking across the web they are freed from the intimidation of physical face-to-face constraints. Others suggest that the anonymity of web communities permits them to be more relaxed and honest about themselves with others. Others 'construct identities'.
But does internet access - often from the isolation of one's bedroom - really generate trust in a community relationship? Does it not reinforce one's isolation in society… to the point of representing a fear of real physical engagement?
Meanwhile, in the physical world, the World Health Organisation has stated that some communities become cut off by road infrastructure, or by high levels of traffic.' Nowadays, physical transport debate seeks to encourage more people away from the isolation of private cars.
But has 'public' transport really managed to create a sense of fellow-feeling?
After all, the Home Office advises us to 'sit near other people...move if someone makes you feel uncomfortable (and)... respect women's personal space.' In the first instance, we withdraw; in the second example, we are encouraged to mingle, but are not both of these scenarios reflective of a pervasive fear of real contact? This session will seek to examine the drivers behind the idea of virtual engagement and physical estrangement.
Speakers: Sandy Starr, technology editor, spiked-online

Dan Sturges, US consultant to GM and Segway,

Neil Cummings, reader in theory and practice, Chelsea College of Art & Design

Saskia Sassen, Ralph Lewis Professor of Sociology at the University of Chicago

Chair: Mark Charmer, director, Movement Design Bureau

That phrase 'from the isolation of one's bedroom' strikes fear in my heart about this session. It sounds as if they may set this up to be people in their bedrooms online all day (ie freaks!) versus people out and about in the 'real world' (ie 'normal' people). I hope not, as it's pretty clear the truth is in between. We often dip in and out of the physical and the virtual worlds when we are communicating with someone and we tend not to make much distinction between them, what matters is the quality of the interaction we are having. Very good paper by Barry Wellman on this very topic, I will dig out the reference later.
Also most people these days don't use the Internet from their bedrooms. This conjures up an image of teenagers locked away (War Games style) in their bedrooms, in chatrooms when they should be doing their homework. I think things have moved on slightly...?


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