Thursday, February 26, 2009


Getting beyond the page in front of you

In our case what you see here as one more webpage is intended only as one intermediate step in a much broader process. It is important that we and others who develop webpages and sites in support of social causes and community work are able to handle this step well. But again, we must recall that it is only one part of this process, so let us take a moment to consider the bottom Iine.

The goal behind all this is to do what we can to create or support political and structural changes which lead to sustainable transportation, sustainable cities, and sustainable lives. Everything else is part of the process.

For this to happen, we need to create a strong consensus for change, and as part of that ensure that it is well advised and broadly shared. This is where collaborative knowledge building of the sort that we are trying to engage in this and other supporting sites under the New Mobility Agenda come in. For both knowledge and consensus building our main toolset is the Internet.

Years ago the Canadian author and media pundit Marshall McLuhan explained to us that communications is best seen as a spectrum of processes which can be characterized as hotter (i.e. offering a higher degree of direct involvement) or colder. As a reminder, at one end of the spectrum you have an impersonal e-mail broadshot and at the other end: eye to eye contact over, say, a glass of white line. This modest website sits somewhere in the middle. It offers us a means to expose our ideas to each other and to comment and "discuss" them, though still quite limited ways; but warts and all it does help us to get a process of exchange and interaction going.

Which brings us to the question of the day, namely how can we use the existing IT toolset in order to take some next steps toward, once again, knowledge and consensus building? Well we can use the phone or Skype for voice contact. That's a good start. Or Skype or some other free or low-cost technology for individual or small group videoconferencing. All of that is well and good, and indeed we like to see it not only more vigorously used our colleagues worldwide but also in more structured and powerful ways.

So, and this is a question at this point, how are we going to use these available technologies to get together in order to pursue some of what we think are among the best ideas that we are looking at, in order to move them closer to implementation? In a short phrase, we are talking about creating first rate distance conference environments, as a substitute or possibly as an intermediate step toward physical meetings which of course do have their place in the process that we are looking at here.

This section of World Streets will be given over to providing a place to post ideas and post discussions of how we can better get together to advance our shared objectives. It is our intention to have this be not only a discussion of principles, but also to move towards specific conferencing projects which can then be reported back to the group as a whole as part of a collaborative learning process. We look forward to this with real interest.

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