Local Communities, Information Gathering
By way of danah boyd I found the Knight Commission on the Information Needs of Communities, which published an introductory whitepaper that asks how local communities find, digest, and react to information.
Outside of designing software, my biggest hobby is reading the news, so you would imagine that I would feel well equipped to answer how I keep up-to-date with, and respond to, local events. Reading the questions the commission is tackling gave me pause, however, since I realized that all of my sources tell me how things are over there, and very little about what’s going on around here. I keep up-to-date with the people who live next door, but only by way of the abstracted and aggregated views of the national news media.
I have tried to sign up for blogs about my area, but they are either too commercialized, or have a low signal-to-noise ratio. And even then, if Hurricane Katrina strikes the northeast, I’ll know as little today about what to do next as I assume most people did the first time disaster struck.
So the national news tells us about there. Blogs tell us about what we know we want. Twitter tells us about now. Where do we find out about down the street, at the moment, and what everyone is doing about it? It seems that we’ve built a digital infrastructure to maximize information gathering at the expense of a local infrastructure for dealing with the more basic things in life.