We Are Electric.CHARLIE TIMS / MARCH 2011 / TRULY YOURS / STOCKHOLM
I often get distracted by the ʻinternet for beginnersʼ classthat happens through the glass window.
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...
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 for the ﬁrst time.
And somehow that doesnʼt seem fair. Mostlytheyʼre just learning a new way of doing whatthey 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.
So, when I was watching this a few weeksago, I was thinking - why not just give theman interface thatʼs a bit more familiar.
Have a button for Eggs. One for a TV license.chocolate biscuits. saucy magazines. wikipediabutton.
wikipedia button.a button for Eggs. One for a TV license. saucy mag button chocolate biscuits
Then I thought, well maybe that already exists.
Internet looks like a phone.Phone that looks like the internet.
Actually, theyʼre not different.Itʼs just that my ʻinternet phoneʼ is a shit internet phone.
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. Now we areelectric.
An evolution in our ability to make telephonecalls to
This means that itʼs increasingly ridiculous tothink about the ʻonlineʼ and the ʻofﬂineʼ worlds.The web canʼt be divided from real-life. Itʼs liketalking about the ʻstreet lit worldʼ and the ʻnon-street lit world.ʼ Everyone seems to accept thatwe are now in a:
So what is an electric community? Itʼs a community that needs electricity to come together.Electric communities are not ʻnew communitiesʼ. Theyjust tend to be easier to bring together, because theyare powered by electricity. Here are some;
The Impulse:ʻI didnʼt know there were people like me..ʼ is key here.
The consequences ofthis in on the street & in the city can be summed up by the following statement.
We can see more niche things less predictably.
4. The economics of inﬁnite shelf space probably applies to electric communities in cities in the same way as they apply to electric books on amazon. Think of the city as a shelf. And communities as books. Amazon can ﬁt more books on their shelf. We can ﬁt more electric communities into the city.So you could probably say that theʻeconomics of inﬁnite shelf spaceʼ applyto electric communities in cities in thesame way as they apply to electric bookson amazon. Think of the city as a shelf.And communities as books. Amazon canﬁt more books on their shelf. We can ﬁtmore electric communities into the city. Itsthe same logic.
Electric communities tend to be more spatiallyefﬁcient. And they can come together around morespecialized tasks. They only exist for as long as theyhave to - which means there is more space for ʻnicheʼcommunities in the same place.
We can see more niche things less predictably.
when communities can rehearse onlinethey can appear on the stage anywhere.
Here some ʻolderʼ more traditional sources of community from some research I did a fewyears ago, looking for the public life of cities.
A shift in the balance fromcommunities that choose you tocommunities that you choose.
If we can see more of ourselves, then who are we? Electric people are destabilize the way we recognise ourselves. When more things are visible - how do we know who we are? What is a trend? When is a trend a trend? If itʼs easier to mobilize 10,000 people - how do we know whether 10,000 people are signiﬁcant or not. How do we know who to listen too?
If communities are niche, what are we sharing? Electric communities enable more ways to share with other people, more deliberately. Some of these are more surgical, some of these are more instrumental, some of these are transactional, some of these are more random. But we call them all sharing. Am I sharing my car with you, or selling it to you when Iʼm not using it? Am I sharing information with you, or broadcasting it at you? Sharing, if thatʼs what it is, doesnʼt seem as intimate as it once was. We share with people we donʼt know. More like doggers, than inuits.
If where something happens is less predictable, what do we have in common? Electric communities make it easier to transcend physical places and local districts. They also make it easier to live within the people and things we already know. Do electric communities drive the fragmentation and Balkanisation of society into different class and interest communities? Do they help us to reach out beyond ourselves, to our neighbours and to our friends. Do they create or do they erode social solidarity?
Which is Great for more freedom. Great for niche collaboration and inter-dependency. Great for being less predictable, routing around, undermining disposing of illegitimate governments and big bureaucracies and businesses.
But we are left with adeﬁcit of places that can hybridise values