Sunday, February 12, 2012

Linda Stone's Booklist and the Community Center

Just found this booklist from Linda Stone, full of thoughts on contemporary life. What struck me was the potential for a lot of cross-pollenization, which possibly neither Linda nor the authors are aware of.

For instance, I'm currently engaged in securing some future direction for the Symposia Bookstore in Hoboken. This is (to my knowledge) the last surviving bookstore (aside from a comic book store or two) in all of Hudson County, NJ. It's an endangered species. The marketplace environment for bookstores is obviously toxic.

Many bookstores traditionally become de facto community centers, and that's been the non-profit Symposia's main function in its decade of existence. Getting back to Linda's list, it contains "Connected: The Surprising Power of Our Social Networks and How They Shape Our Lives" and "Bowling Alone : The Collapse and Revival of American Community". So: social networks are important, and they're undergoing significant change. Then we come to titles such as "Hanging Out, Messing Around, and Geeking Out: Kids Living and Learning with New Media", which suggests that Twitter, Facebook et al may have become our new community centers.

It would be encouraging to believe that the folks you see everywhere glued to their smartphone screens are engaged in something meaningful and uplifting, rather than being an army of brain-dead zombies as the facile, cynical media portrays them. Of course, since most folks are playing Angry Birds, the truth is likely to be somewhere in-between.

What this means for the average community center is that they are less vital for a community than they once were. This is part of a gradual decline that began with the telephone. What the role of a place like Symposia is, today, is something to be explored - hopefully before such places are extinct.

One experiment in reinventing the community center took place in Brooklyn, where Dave Eggers' Superhero Supply Company was launched. This effort focuses on tutoring, and was discussed in this TED Talk. (That last link is a very entertaining video, very much worth your time.)

No comments:

Post a Comment