On behalf of Grace Choe
My experience of South Madison began as I got on the bus number 4, which was the route heading to the South Madison. Even before I actually see the neighborhood, I could grasp a sense of the place already. The bus was full, and as I was stepping on, I could hear the driver yell at the passengers, “Move to the back! Keep on moving all the way to the back”, and he shouted, “Black people won’t bite you!” It was then I started to notice this diverse ethnicity and think about the prejudged perception of the area I heard from the class. I could not resist that conception and found myself, already, somewhat uncomfortable, intimidated by the people who seem to be “different” from me.
I thought that could be the part of explanation for weak community bonding which was evident by the low level of community involvement at the Celebrate South Madison Festival. Firstly, because of predetermined perception of their area, residents themselves lack the loyalty to the community. Secondly, although diversity in ethnic groups can be a positive characteristic, it also seems to create barriers for them to come together. This is the major social dilemma in South side of Madison. However, as every downside can be turned into opportunities, with efforts this social barrier can later turn out to be the greatest strength of the community. And new communication technologies can be a beneficial tool in solving the social dilemma.
Rheingold, in his book Smart Mobs: The Next Social Revolution introduces the term “smart mobs”, the group of people using network technology as powerful device to connect to information and with each other. As he strongly emphasizes how powerful this mobile communication, pervasive computing and wireless networks both beneficially or destructively, depending on how people use.
The Internet network and mobile network, in particular, could be used to increase the personal bonding of the community. As Manila protestors used cellphone text messages to spread the words out to gather to overthrow President Joseph Estrada, the word of mouth seems to be the most powerful when it comes to social coordination, and such cell phone devices and Facebook on computer enables the word of mouth to travel much more rapidly and widely. I think that this new technology can truly link individuals at the community to more personal levels, which then they will start to erode the prejudices of each other, and then of themselves as a community, forming a loyalty to the community.
On behalf of Kelly Mendola
Human rationale, technology and the South Madison community work and will work in a triangular relationship to present our team with challenges and opportunities when we’re working to use communication technology to bond and bridge the area. Knowledge, skills and motivation are three components of human barriers that will present us with challenges, but if tackled well we can turn them into opportunities.
Knowledge and skills go hand-in-hand. Individuals need to gain knowledge in order to acquire different skills.
In terms of knowledge, I think of people’s knowledge about food in South Madison. Specifically with ethnic restaurants and locally grown food, most of South Madison doesn’t know about options beyond the restaurant and food options reinforced as good and/or available through the people in their fragmented social groups; therefore, they create a biased view of the only viable options. Pariser discusses this the concept of bias views thriving in segmented environments. Pariser discusses, “The Internet has unleashed the coordinated energy of a whole new generation of activists – it’s easier than ever to find people who share your political passions,” as personalization advances, it’ll be harder to reach a broad audience. We can counteract this by creating a hub that stores information about all options and shares all viewpoints, rather than keeping these things separate. People will then have a larger base of knowledge about what is available to them.
The main challenge I anticipate in terms of skills is South Madison’s technological capabilities. We have not researched the communities technological knowledge or skill-set yet, but most of the area appears to be of lower socioeconomic status, therefore they might not own or use a computer on a regular basis and engage in social media as often as a class of journalism students does. To start, we need to know what South Madison citizens know how to use, prefer to use and are open to learning more about. All the readings discuss how people seek information that reinforces views they already have. We can apply this to technological platforms and use technology that people already know and like rather than using technology that doesn’t appeal to residents. For those with lower technological competence to the average person, we can keep interactive options as simple as possible and provide basic instructions, for example “three steps to upload a video”. For applications that may be more complex, we could hold seminars on how to use these tools at the library or other promotional events for our campaign.
Judging by the lack of attendance at the festival, the greater population doesn’t appear particularly interested in engaging in community events. We need to find out what incentives will motivate them to get involved. Two potential partners that can help us find out what motivates people and that can help us get people to rally behind our campaign are kids and community leaders that people respect and like, like Robert Pierce and John. These two groups are trusted by the community and understand the community. If we can get them excited about our ideas, they can help spread that excitement to others.
There is plenty of room to growth in South Madison’s knowledge, skills and motivations in regards to food – the central concept of our campaign and the technology we hope to leverage our campaign with.
As strong as a community builder the event appeared to be, I was under whelmed by the attendance and would have liked to see more people there from the South Madison community. The majority of people there were volunteers or kids brought in by the Boys and Girls Club.
This brings me to challenge #1: How do we get the South Madison community to engage in our campaign?
After seeing the lack of turnout at the festival, I feel this will be our main challenge. I attribute the low attendance to the event time, a Thursday afternoon from 4 to 7 pm, a time many people are at work, running post-work errands or transitioning their children from school to afternoon/evening-time. By bringing parts of our campaign online we will be able to overcome the obstacle of different schedules, people will be able to engage in an online community that promotes inclusion at a time that works best for them. Keith Hampton and Barry Wellman claim the Internet “facilitate discussion and mobilization around local issues… and the global reach of Internet freed people form the restraints of place.” In particular Hampton and Wellman argue e-mail allows residents in Netville to, “Communicate information, share emotions, facilitate agreement and provide a sense of inclusion.” Utilizing technology could benefit our hopes to bond and bridge the Madison community, but we need to access their access and competence with technological platforms.
Challenge #2: Identify the technological platforms the South Madison community uses and how they use them.
Our team will need to research potential ways to overcome this obstacle. I think it’s important to mote the “Celebrate South Madison” Facebook event only had 77 people attending and 1,093 people that never responded yes or no. In class we continually assume Facebook is a platform South Madison widely uses and understands, but these numbers are a huge indicator of the communities lack of disengagement in social media even if they may have a Facebook account.
Challenge #3: Find a relevant angle on food for South Madison.
After attending the festival I felt there were two distinct paths we could take in terms of using food as a platform to bridge and bond the community. We can either focus on locally grown food or the area’s restaurants. I feel focusing on restaurants would be better suited for community members and give us more options in terms of technological pieces we could create. While promoting healthy locally grown produce would be great, trying to use it as a way to bridge fragments of the community would not be effective because no one seems particularly interested. I saw minimal interest in the farmer’s market and free healthy samples at the festival, I even witnessed multiple adults turndown offers to free samples and appear disinterested in learning more about these things.
On the other hand, the variety of South Madison restaurants have more potential for “bridging and bonding” because many of the restaurants are already liked by certain groups that could “share” these restaurants with others in real life and in a virtual world. Technological tools involving Google maps, Yelp and other consumer review sites and even photo upload applications could all be incorporated into restaurant sharing. Restaurants also provide venues for live events.