We Are Electric


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This is a work in progress. It's lodging here before I talk about it in public. It was what I was working on in Perugia

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We Are Electric

  1. 1. this is just a very rough outline of some thoughts that I amtrying to string together for a few talks i need to give in thenext few weeks. i want to talk about the impact of the webon how groups of people come together in cities and thequestions this raises for politics and policymakers. I alsowant to say the word electric, alot.there are a few unresolved things that i need help with.1. Donʼt feel like I have really ʻlocatedʼ it in anything - as in otherpeople who have thought and written all this already. Whatshould I locate it in? What should I be reading?2. Is the schema for categorizing electric communities helpful?Are there other types of community I should put on here?3. I want to connect the impact of electric communities to thedesign of cities, policy making and broader questions aboutself-government in cities. I think I have something to say aboutthe first two but nothing really to say about the last.if you havenʼt already, this will be alot easier to read if you makeit go full-screen
  2. 2. We Are Electric.CHARLIE TIMS / MARCH 2011 / URBAN APPS
  3. 3. I like to work in my local library. I sit here.
  4. 4. I often get distracted by the ʻinternet for beginnersʼ classthat happens through the glass window.
  5. 5. A teacher, following a sheet of instructions, prompts theclass through a series of exercises. She explains what asearch engine is, what google is, what wikipedia is,what directgov is...
  6. 6. The people taking the class sit at their computerterminals, fingers hovering over their keyboards,staring at the prompt-sheet, squinting at the screen.Everything is so alien to them.Itʼs hard to imagine quite what it must be like to dothese things that, for most of us, are so part andparcel of everyday life for the first time.
  7. 7. And somehow that doesnʼt seem fair. Mostlytheyʼre just learning a new way of doing way ofdoing what they already do.A new way to pick up yellow pages, make aphone call and order a book. A new version ofbuying a magazine, looking at an advert in anewspaper, picking up the telephone and callinga shop. A new way to telephone the grocers andask them to make a home delivery.Itʼs the interface thatʼs alienating.Not what they are doing.
  8. 8. So, when I was watching this a few weeksago, I was thinking - why not just give theman interface thatʼs a bit more familiar.
  9. 9. Have a button for Eggs. One for a TV license.chocolate biscuits. saucy magazines. wikipediabutton.
  10. 10. wikipedia button.a button for Eggs. One for a TV license. saucy mag button chocolate biscuits
  11. 11. Then I thought, well maybe that already exists.
  12. 12. Internet looks like a phone.Phone that looks like the internet.
  13. 13. Actually, theyʼre not different.Itʼs just that my internet phone is shit.
  14. 14. The point being. All this stuff with computers,and mice and browsers - it created an idea thatthere was a different digital world, when actuallywhat has been happening is the gradualelectrification of our relationships.
  15. 15. Electric People
  16. 16. Itʼs increasingly ridiculous to think about theʻonlineʼ and the ʻofflineʼ worlds. The web canʼt bedivided from real-life. There is no distinction.Itʼs like talking about the ʻcar worldʼ and theʻpedestrian worldʼ. The ʻstreet lit worldʼ and theʻnon-street lit world.ʼ
  17. 17. Itʼs also a bit odd to think of ʻtechnology expertsʼ -these days any expert has to think abouttechnology to be able to think. Everyoneʼs world ismangled with technology.
  18. 18. Everything has gone electric now.
  19. 19. At the end of the last century we electrified cities -now we have electrified the people in them. Weʼveelectrified our relationships. Electrified friendship.Electrified hatred. Electric news. Electric sex.Electrification. We are all electric.
  20. 20. We havenʼt created something different,something ʻdigitalʼ, or a new ʻrepublicʼ -we have electrified what we have.
  21. 21. So lets just talk about the electric world, with electricpeople. Not an online and an offline world.
  22. 22. Electric Communities
  23. 23. Electric people form electriccommunities (I think thatʼs whatwe mean by urban aps today) soIʼm going to talk about whatelectric communities mean forcities and society.
  24. 24. So what is an electric community?Itʼs a community that needselectricity to come together.
  25. 25. Four things about electric communities.
  26. 26. 1Electric communities are not ʻnew communitiesʼ. Theyare just communities that tend to be easier to bringtogether, because they are powered by electricity.
  27. 27. 2That said all communities are going electric. Somecommunities that used to be very hard to bringtogether, are now much easier to bring togetherbecause of electricity - e.g. a learning group. Wecould call these ʻelectric richʼ. Some communitiesand group activity that was possible withoutelectricity (meeting a group of people at a specifictime in the pub) now need electricity.
  28. 28. 3Electric communities tend to be more precise. Theyonly exist for as long as they have to - which meansthere is more space for different communities in thesame place. Many more things that might not havebeen visible, or would have taken alot more work toorganise, are now visible in the city.
  29. 29. 4.The economics of infinite shelf spaceprobably applies to electric communitiesin cities in the same way as they apply toelectric books on amazon. Think of thecity as a shelf. And communities asbooks. Amazon can fit more books ontheir shelf. We can fit more electriccommunities into the city.
  30. 30. 4.The economics of infinite shelf spaceprobably applies to electric communitiesin cities in the same way as they apply toelectric books on amazon. Think of thecity as a shelf. And communities asbooks. Amazon can fit more books ontheir shelf. We can fit more electriccommunities into the city.
  31. 31. An Anatomy ofElectric Communities
  32. 32. Electric communities do different things. Here is a way topick them apart.
  33. 33. So on the y axis thatʼs the type of sharingwithin the group - more intense forms ofsharing at the top, less intense at the bottom.
  34. 34. And on the x axis thatʼs the diversity of thedifferent groups of people within the group.Groups made up of people like me on the left,groups make of people very unlike me on theright.
  35. 35. Im going to map some ʻelectric richʼ groups Iknow on here. This is going to be not veryscientific.
  36. 36. I didn’t know there were people like me!
  37. 37. That is what people said when they started togo electric. They donʼt say that anymore.
  38. 38. Now Iʼm going to add some less electriccommunities on here.
  39. 39. So, maybe here, we can see some tendenciesof electric communities.
  40. 40. 1 A movement towards niche communities. 2Greater levels of artistry in bringing different people together. 3 Communities using places, rather than communities from places. More communitiesthat you can choose, rather than communities that choose you.
  41. 41. The Politicsof Electric Communities
  42. 42. Electric communities disrupt the city.This affects how we understand who we areas a whole. And how we relate to each other.This creates anxieties about the idea of ʻusʼ.
  43. 43. Some anxieties about us
  44. 44. Who are we?Electric people are destabilize the way werecognise ourselves. When more things arevisible - how do we know who we are? Whatis a trend? When is a trend a trend? If itʼseasier to mobilize 10,000 people - how do weknow whether 10,000 people are significantor not. How do we know who to listen too?
  45. 45. What do we have in common?Electric communities make it easier to transcendphysical places and local districts. They also makeit easier to live within the people and things wealready know. Do electric communities drive thefragmentation and Balkanisation of society intodifferent class and interest communities? Or dothey help us to reach out beyond ourselves, to ourneighbours and to our friends. Do they create ordo they erode social solidarity?
  46. 46. What is sharing?Electric communities enable more ways toshare with other people. Some of theseare more surgical, some of these are moreinstrumental, some of these aretransactional, some of these are morerandom. Some of these are more tactical.We can share more, more deliberately?Wonder if this kind of sharing, is differentto older types of sharing. And if itsomehow erodes solidarity on the basis ofwhere you live.
  47. 47. Demos Electrified
  48. 48. Electric communities are benign. They are notnecessarily more intimate, more democratic, moreshared, more generally wonderful than thecommunities we formed before electricity becamesuch a big part of relationships.They are no better than we are.
  49. 49. At their worst they concentrate knowledge withintight communities, reinforce social fragmentation,encourage ʻtransactionalʼ sharing - possibleencouragement of tribalisation, paranoia, loss ofconfidence in people with whom you donʼt share adirect interest. AGH!
  50. 50. Essentially the question we are asking is:How can you square the efficiency andgeneral coolness of free self-forming electriccommunities of interest, with the need for thenational or urban community to betransformative - transforming of all thecommunities inside it.
  51. 51. The answer lies in the design and makingof the public realm in cities - the extent towhich the city is accessible, shared andgoverned by all.
  52. 52. Spaces that can be accessed, shared and governed by different groups of people.
  53. 53. so
  54. 54. Defend Shared PlacesFootball Clubs, Libraries, Sports Centres, Arts Centres, Cultural Spaces, Lidos, Allotments, Spaces that can be accessed by different interest groups.
  55. 55. Design Sharing Social design art of bringing peopletogether - festivals, interventions, thedesign of sharing, the construction ofpeople. Look into the whites of other peopleʼs eyes
  56. 56. Shared Decisionsbig society is a vision of people running their own stuff, themselves. Maybe it should be more explicitly about involving more people in running stuff.i.e. democracy + sharing, not a free-for- all?
  57. 57. Shared Places Designed Sharing Shared Decisions
  58. 58. itʼs all about libraries
  59. 59. We Are Electric.CHARLIE TIMS / MARCH 2011 / URBAN APPS