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This man’s pointed finger could be a gesture drawing his companion’s attention to the passing Google vehicle. To me, it looks more like a sharp accusation pointed at Google for the sense of intrusion he feels. The chevrons, contrasting with the wheelchair by implying freedom of movement in all directions; and the blurred faces – a dull concession to the tatty notion of ‘privacy in public’ that some of us grew up with – emphasise the layers of symbolism in this image. And there’s another. The location is on a seafront in southern England, where in previous centuries members of ‘society’ would have promenaded at certain times in order to ‘be seen’. Continue reading
Posted yesterday at Neighbourhoods
According to Children and Young People Now, Barnardo’s analysis of Department for Education figures show that annual expenditure on children’s centres fell by 35 per cent between 2010 and 2015. This is not entirely surprising. But I note that in a recent general election, people voted for more of the same. It strikes me as simply barbaric. Continue reading
Posted 4 days ago at Neighbourhoods
There I was, needing to write something about resilience and not looking forward to it. I distrust the careless fashionable use of the term in community development and regeneration. When a respected publisher begins the blurb for a new book with a sentence like this – ‘”Resilience” has become one of the first fully fledged academic and political buzzwords of the 21st century’ – I reach for my scepticism. Then into my mailbox someone drops a link to a curious mixture of blog posts on the theme of ‘How do you measure resilience in cities? How would you know if your city or your community was resilient?’ Scrolling through, I’ve found myself returning to a piece by Tom Henfrey from Bristol. Part of his concern is with the sociological use of the term without any appreciation of the scientific understanding of resilience in the ecological study of complex systems. This may be an accusation that can fairly be leveled at academics; but in defense of practitioners it seems to me wholly reasonable to be thinking about, say, ‘resilient communities’ just as we talk about people who show resilience in the face of disadvantage. Wholly reasonable – up to a point. The problem is that the language has been appropriated and is tainted. As Henfrey notes: ‘Most treatments of urban resilience are overtly or covertly complicit with the appropriation of the concept by conservative forces seeking to reinforce inequalities of wealth and power.’ He elaborates on this with reference to the notion of resilient cities: ‘In their current form, cities inherently lack resilience. They depend on throughputs of matter and energy that are utterly unsustainable, and consequently endure only because they externalise the consequent social and ecological damage: in other words by systematically undermining resilience elsewhere. Their primary function—reflecting the main, unstated, policy goal of almost every government in the world—is to ensure that wealth and power accrue disproportionately to those who already have both in excess, at everyone else’s expense. An inevitable consequence of increasing inequity is to intensify resource flows to even less sustainable levels, further undermining resilience in the city itself, its constituent subsystems, and connected systems elsewhere.’ Indeed: if we use the term, there’s a risk of doing so in collusion with forces and ideologies that seek to embed ‘resilience’ within the status quo. This in turn – to develop Henfrey’s point - effectively undermines other forms of resilience. I wonder if we should be talking about ‘counter-resilience’? – the capacity of those without access to wealth or power to resist, in positive ways, the imposition of resilience. Continue reading
Posted 6 days ago at Neighbourhoods
This is fun. Stuart Heritage in the Guardian speculates that Mark Zuckerberg’s acquisition of properties neighbouring his own house, in order to ensure a degree of privacy, might just be a consequence of what he has unleashed… ‘This is the man who created Facebook, remember. When Zuckerberg looks down at the fruits of his creation, what does he see? The very worst of humanity, that’s what. Narcissists. Drunks. Racists. Joke stealers. Complainers. People who wouldn’t know the difference between “their” and “there” if you wrote it on a cricket bat and attacked them with it. If you spent your day endlessly scrolling through 1.3 billion soul-deadening hen party photo uploads and infinite multilingual variations of “U OK hun?”, you’d want to run as far away from people as you could too.’ An alternative view might be that Zuckerberg has played a role in helping people communicate and just wants a bit of peace and quiet. I’ve no idea. But I’d hazard a guess that he is frustrated that he may never again have an idea to compare with the one he had at the age of 21. Continue reading
Posted 6 days ago at Neighbourhoods
Yesterday evening I had a charity doorknocker. I’m always courteous but never encouraging with these people. It helps if they appear when I’m obviously cooking but it doesn’t help if they don’t get the message; nor if, when I mention that I give to certain charities in a deliberate way over periods of time, full stop, they don’t get that message either. True to the standard, this one used the phrase ‘I’m not asking for money’ almost immediately and then proceeded to suggest I gave 20p per day ‘like your amazing neighbours’. It’s possible he knows something I don’t, but I suspect not. If I’d had the patience, perhaps I might have asked him (a) where he lives, and (b) in what ways he has been amazed by my neighbours – things that have perhaps eluded me all these years. But unbeknown to this man and his well-trained phoney positivity, my neighbours are fairly special because a lot of informal mutual support goes on amongst us. There’s nothing unique about that of course, but it is noteworthy. What was striking about last night’s encounter was how it illustrates the gulf between informal neighbourly support and philanthropy. People think of them as close together on the pro-social spectrum; and our government likes to promote this notion because it suits them that philanthropy serves to reinforce disempowerment. But having a clown delivering this sort of patter on my doorstep will remain for me a symbol of the ideological contrast. Continue reading
Posted May 15, 2015 at Neighbourhoods
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The baseline report for the SMILEY evaluation of community development and digital inclusion (Social Media Initiatives in Local East York), co-authored by Alison Gilchrist and myself, is now available here. The report explores the results of a survey carried out in Derwenthorpe and the neighbouring areas of Tang Hall and Osbaldwick. Joseph Rowntree Foundation is developing a programme to deliver digital inclusion interventions and support existing digital inclusion initiatives in these areas. Our role is to assess the impact of the programme activities, which are intended to support the development of social links and networks between residents within and between these three localities. Our results suggest a sharp contrast between those who recognise and appreciate the potential of digital media to contribute to local life, and those who do not. We found that for almost half of those who have been involved in a local community issue, this has come about as a direct result of online contact ('once', 'a few times', or 'often'). But at the same time, a significant 40 per cent of respondents did not see any potential in local community uses of the internet, either through connecting with active local groups, or as a way of raising and influencing local issues. In several respects we found that approximately 20 per cent of respondents seem to experience digital exclusion. For example, eighteen per cent say they are ‘not very’ or ‘not at all’ comfortable trying out new digital technologies twenty-two per cent say they lack, or lack confidence in, their online digital skills one person in five does not expect that the internet could help them to keep in touch with friends or social contacts locally. The baseline survey was conducted between November 2014 and January 2015. It was carried out by five community researchers in Derwenthorpe and the surrounding areas. Download the full report. There’s more on the SMILEY project here. Our evaluation will go on to examine if and how JRF's interventions lead to the improvement of digital skills and literacy, generate a positive online identity for the area, and support community development and the integration of Derwenthorpe residents with neighbouring communities. Continue reading
Posted May 11, 2015 at Neighbourhoods
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A couple of weeks ago I turned on my phone at about seven o’clock and it rang almost immediately. BBC Radio London - had I seen the pictures in the papers of the candy-striped house in Kensington? They gave me a few seconds on air without time to say anything meaningful, but since then there’s been a new twist to the story. The owner, a property developer called Zipporah Lisle-Mainwaring, found that there had been objections from neighbours to her modest plans to demolish the building and replace it with a five-storey house, including a two-storey basement – nothing much, swimming pool, media centre, that sort of thing. Planning permission was originally approved but then withdrawn after objections. It is believed that the deck-chair décor was a statement of revenge at this decision. One resident was reported as saying ‘Without sounding very pretentious, it isn’t very Kensington.’ Of course it’s entertaining to hear about squabbles among the Haves, and it did strike me that the house might not look out of place in Amsterdam. Also I’d like to note that the owner didn’t paint her house: she had workers do it for her. But this story exposes serious issues of ownership and privacy which as a society we struggle to deal with. The first point to make is that if you create the cultural conditions in which houses are treated as commodities, you are going to get people treating houses as commodities. Logically this could mean total disregard for the interests of anyone else in the vicinity. Writing in the Sunday Times(£), India Knight argued that a neighbourhood ‘needs as much, if not more, maintenance than the housing it contains. If you want to live somewhere “nice” – clean, friendly, well-maintained, cheerful – then you need to play a part in making it so.’ What this means is that we need to do away completely with assumptions that the individual owner has the right to do what they like with their house. I’ve discussed this sort of thing before with regard to Christmas decorations and the constraints that home-owner associations can impose on residents. The space around the house affects others in all sorts of ways and their views have to be taken into account when changes are proposed, temporary or not. How we do that is another matter, and from the little I knew at the time of this story I couldn’t see how the authorities could stop or have stopped the resolute Kensington developer from having her house painted whatever colours she chose. Well it turns out that the house is situated in a conservation area and planning law has something called a Section 215 Notice, tada! One of these has been served (I love the language): “The owner has the right to appeal the notice by 5 June in the magistrates courts but, if no appeal is forthcoming, the owner must repaint the front elevation white and carry out repairs to the windows by 3 July. “If... Continue reading
Posted May 1, 2015 at Neighbourhoods
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Back in the early 90s I got disillusioned with being part of a circus of people talking about those who experience exclusion, too frequently in their absence. I tried (largely unsuccessfully) to get funding for what I called ‘Voices’ projects, whereby people’s own experiences were recorded and this constituted the text, with or without context. At one point I had a list of eight or ten sub-projects, but funders could not be persuaded. The nearest I came was with a project in Derry, Northern Ireland, but I don’t know what happened to the small amount of content created. More recently, I was part of a successful example, A series of doors, presenting the experiences of young people in poverty. It’s tempting to say now that ‘Liverpool has done it’, because a range of Liverpuddlian agencies have worked together to produce the Getting by? report. And they’ve done it supremely well. Try and get your hands on the hard copy. The project has documented 12 months in the lives of 30 families living in poverty in Liverpool where one or both parents are working. The website has included video clips as well as monitoring the political context and providing a clever connection between sources of help and advice, and the advisors’ take on the provision of that support. The report shows what you’d expect: these families are invariably hard-working, financially astute, and often enormously resourceful, but still have insufficient means to raise themselves out of poverty. And these are families with paid employment. The foreword quotes Beatrice Webb up-front: ‘Poverty is not due to a weakness of individual character, but is a problem of social structure and economic mismanagement.’ With a frankly unpromising general election in view, what chance that those who are in positions to do something about the social structure and the management of the economy will take any notice? Continue reading
Posted Apr 21, 2015 at Neighbourhoods
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I’ve been reviewing the documentation for a number of Good Neighbour schemes recently, as part of a process and impact evaluation that I'm working on. The descriptions of what schemes offer is generally very consistent: in addition to the universal offer of transport to hospitals and shops etc, they often include reference to helping with basic household tasks like ‘changing a light-bulb’. It happens that I’ve also had builders in recently, and had to go with them to buy various bits and pieces including ceiling lights for the bathroom. The lights that have now been fitted have an estimated life, I’m told, of 35,000 hours. At an average of, say, an hour-per-day, they can be expected to last around 95 years. Hoorah for technological progress. But as I get older, there’s one less reason to have a volunteer come round and check on me while doing handy things about the house. What we have here is another variation on what I have called Kev's Automatic Door Principle, which notes that ‘there are distinct advantages to using technology to open doors for us: especially for people who use wheelchairs, also of course if you are overloaded with luggage; but automatic doors do not have to be held open for the lady with the stick just behind you, or for that bloke with the buggy just approaching. This is technology confiscating tiny social interactions.’ I mentioned another instance - external security boxes – here. And just to be clear, I am not suggesting that there aren’t technological advances helping us in the opposite direction. Continue reading
Posted Apr 9, 2015 at Neighbourhoods
I set out for a run at about five this morning, and wobbled round the corner up towards some nearby almshouses. In the faint light from at least 50 metres I thought I could make out a figure at one of the doors. As I drew closer I realised it was an elderly lady, on her doorstep, bent over and reaching down for something. 'Excuse me' says I, 'are you alright?' Then I saw a pack of potatoes on the ground below a couple of steps. The woman stood in her nightie holding onto the doorframe, groping at and failing to grasp the pack (which presumably had been left by the milkman) and was in danger of toppling forward onto the path. I passed her the spuds. And conscious that, déshabillé at that hour, she probably wouldn’t want to engage in any more conversation than I would, I moved on with just a few words. She thanked me laughing and said ‘Don’t get old’. Incidentally, if you're one of these people who assumes that when you're sleeping, so is everyone else around you, you might be surprised. Neighbourhood encounters happen at all hours. Continue reading
Posted Mar 21, 2015 at Neighbourhoods
JRF’s programme on risk and trust in everyday relationships was designed to break new ground and it has done so, with a range of stimulating papers. The latest is Landscapes of helping, an absorbing report on informal helping – ‘kindliness’ - at local level, by Meg Allen, Helen Spandler, Yvonne Prendergast and Lynn Frogget. It’s based on an extended case study in Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire. Perhaps because the theme overlaps strongly with issues of neighbouring and neighbourliness, I was privileged to have sight of a draft of this report. I admire the way the authors have drawn out a number of mechanisms that foster kindliness while simultaneously contributing to neighbourliness and sociality. These they describe as: Making kindliness palatable Nurturing bonders and bridgers ‘Creating a shared myth’ and ‘Building common cause’ Third spaces and ‘Hubs of helping’ as ‘ways of connecting communities’; and Creating kinder economies. Some of this we know about: for instance, community development practice and the literature of social capital already give us insights into how bonding and bridging capital can be nurtured, and we know quite a bit about third places, or think we do. But the first and last in the above list are striking as barely-charted areas for potential enquiry. Talking of barely-charted areas for enquiry, this paper helps us realise how little the notion of kindliness is discussed, reflected on or researched. Here’s how the authors came through the entangling thicket of definition – acknowledging several difficulties in distinguishing concepts: ‘It was often difficult to identify boundaries between help within the family and outside; and low level help between neighbours could easily transform into longer-term more intensive support and care. We also found it difficult to distinguish between informal and more formalised (or semi-formal) help and our exploration of kindliness involved going through, and observing, semi-formal organisations who often mediate more informal relationships. ‘Similarly, while we started this research trying to distinguish between giving and receiving help, we increasingly realised that this distinction was hard to sustain. In everyday life it is not always possible, or desirable, to separate out the needs of the self and the needs of others (Munn-Giddings, 2001). People practise kindliness, not only to help others, but to help themselves, and to improve the communities in which they live.’ Ah, I recognise this part of the landscape: we’re back at the corner of Altruism Avenue and Reciprocity Road. And it’s good to know that informal and semi-formal relations in neighbourhoods are receiving a bit of attention at last. While JRF continue pursuing their programme, my good friend Alison Gilchrist has recently won a Plowden Fellowship to explore the theme of ‘informality’ in relation to good governance and social justice. And less gloriously, I’m currently working on a project for Nesta to produce a process evaluation and impact evaluation of Good Neighbour schemes. More on that in due course. Continue reading
Posted Mar 20, 2015 at Neighbourhoods
Many years ago, oh before your time surely, as a student of information science I recall a moment of minor enlightenment when I understood a key point about information in a consumer society: information consumes, and what it consumes is attention. Several decades on I have just been intrigued by this article by Matthew B Crawford in the NYT. He posits an ‘attentional commons’ on the grounds that there is ‘a new frontier of capitalism, complete with its own frontier ethic: to boldly dig up and monetize every bit of private head space by appropriating our collective attention. In the process, we’ve sacrificed silence — the condition of not being addressed.’ The short-hand term for this legitimised aggression is spam, e.g. all those spam phone calls you may still get, and the spam snail-mail through the door, the interference from the charity salesperson on the high street, spam information on public display boards and so on. Crawford’s article feels like a worthy but desperate rear-guard salvo attempting to defend the collective during the assault on privacy. Is anyone interested? Part of the problem perhaps is that in a fierce battle around private attention intensified by personal networking technologies, to most people, collective social relations don’t seem such a big deal. Crawford suggests: ‘Of course, you can seal yourself off by putting on noise-canceling headphones, staring at a smartphone or opening a novel. But what is lost is the public space that is required for sociability, the kind that depends on people not being self-enclosed.’ Did we really have our own right to silence that it was possible to ‘sacrifice’? A couple of hundred years ago, strolling in London, you’d have been bombarded with spam of all sorts, with peddlers and beggars and tradespeople flinging demands and offers of all kinds at you. Go back further in history and reflect on any urban context, and you have to wonder how we can have come to assume a right not to be addressed. The class system did that, to an extent, otherwise there was an assumed right to spam others. Personally (ha) I would love to have the right not to be addressed, but I suspect it is a weak twentieth century social construct, and not robust enough to defend societies against the exclusionary momentum symbolised by gated communities, for example. And I wonder if Crawford has been paying attention, if I may put it like that. There is a counter-argument, and I fancy Keith Hampton would be pointing this out gently – people are more likely to spend time together in public spaces than they were 30 years ago. Something is going on here, and it may have to do with the shift from societies with strong normative centres to societies that are almost chaotically diverse. Try not to take it personally. As I noted some time ago, we still haven’t done our thinking about the changing nature of privacy. Continue reading
Posted Mar 14, 2015 at Neighbourhoods
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I came across this quick-and-dirty advert outside a high street pub. In view of previous reports on the criminality of pavement chalking, is this form of communication permissible in commercial terms during recession? I'm sure the current government would approve of the enterprise. Previously: Pavement chalking anarchy again Pavement chalking: this time seen in a positive light Pavement chalking epidemic? Footnote on pavement chalking 'If it can be washed away, it's not graffiti. But' Continue reading
Posted Mar 10, 2015 at Neighbourhoods
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A quick heads-UP for Julian Dobson's book, out now. How to save our town centres, published by Policy Press, "delves below the surface of empty buildings and ‘shop local’ campaigns to focus on the real issues: how the relationship between people and places is changing, how business is done and who benefits, and how the use and ownership of land affects us all." Knowing Julian it will be insightful, original, very well-informed, and well-written. How to Save Our Town Centres, published by Policy Press in February 2015, delves below the surface of empty buildings and ‘shop local’ campaigns to focus on the real issues: how the relationship between people and places is changing, how business is done and who benefits, and how the use and ownership of land affects us all. - See more at: http://urbanpollinators.co.uk/?page_id=2266&utm_source=Urban+Pollinators+news&utm_campaign=4bdd58a5ee-Urban_Pollinators_news_February_2015&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_d00dd5095c-4bdd58a5ee-231844673#sthash.Ap82JYXI.dpuf How to Save Our Town Centres, published by Policy Press in February 2015, delves below the surface of empty buildings and ‘shop local’ campaigns to focus on the real issues: how the relationship between people and places is changing, how business is done and who benefits, and how the use and ownership of land affects us all. - See more at: http://urbanpollinators.co.uk/?page_id=2266&utm_source=Urban+Pollinators+news&utm_campaign=4bdd58a5ee-Urban_Pollinators_news_February_2015&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_d00dd5095c-4bdd58a5ee-231844673#sthash.Ap82JYXI.dpuf How to Save Our Town Centres, published by Policy Press in February 2015, delves below the surface of empty buildings and ‘shop local’ campaigns to focus on the real issues: how the relationship between people and places is changing, how business is done and who benefits, and how the use and ownership of land affects us all. - See more at: http://urbanpollinators.co.uk/?page_id=2266&utm_source=Urban+Pollinators+news&utm_campaign=4bdd58a5ee-Urban_Pollinators_news_February_2015&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_d00dd5095c-4bdd58a5ee-231844673#sthash.Ap82JYXI.dpuf Continue reading
Posted Feb 18, 2015 at Neighbourhoods
From the research point of view, stark honesty is always reassuring, however negative. I’ve just been going through some comments in a questionnaire survey and came across this little gem: Q. ‘To what extent do you tend to get involved in local community issues?’ A. ‘I can't be bothered. Nothing has really motivated me to get involved.’ OK, can we have the next question please? Continue reading
Posted Feb 17, 2015 at Neighbourhoods
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Here’s a curate’s egg for yer. In Northern Ireland the Building Change Trust has just published what it calls a grassroots democracy toolkit for civil society. There’s lots to like. I was immediately impressed by the structure and design of the site: it neither overwhelms me with choice and information, nor feels stingy or shallow in what it is revealing. That’s a smart piece of design. Against that, there’s surely not much excuse for the peculiar masculine bias and old-fashioned total whiteness of faces in the graphics. More than 5 out of ten for sure, but a pity. Continue reading
Posted Feb 16, 2015 at Neighbourhoods
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I just came across this concise news post (from October 2013) which I felt was well-worth sharing, from Whissendine in Rutland: 'In one sunny day, A gave B a blueberry bush, B gave A some alchemilla mollis, D used his 4x4 to pull out a shrub then B and E helped move D's greenhouse from his garden, via the gardens of B and A. Good neighbour co-operation?' Continue reading
Posted Feb 16, 2015 at Neighbourhoods
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This week, with my colleague Alison Gilchrist, I had the privilege of spending time reflecting with a group of community researchers on their experience of carrying out survey interviews with local people. We’d asked them (and provided training and support of course) to administer questionnaires using Survey Gizmo on iPads, in the field, across three adjacent neighbourhoods. The session was full of insights and we’ll try to capture these systematically in due course. Here I just want to mention those which to us were the most striking. First, there were a couple of technical glitches as the iPad version of Survey Gizmo was not quite stable: these might thoroughly have dispirited most people, but our intrepid researchers overcame them in one way or another. Secondly, they faced and overcame resistance and rejection from some residents (with suggestions of racism, sexism and anti-student sentiment in one case) to meet the overall target and not be far off the sampling targets. Thirdly, we were hugely impressed at the level of collaboration between them, as they supported and encouraged one another in recruiting respondents. There were a couple of other lessons that we might have anticipated on beforehand, but hadn’t. To begin with, the time of year makes a significant difference: it can be really hard trying to find respondents and arrange appointments in winter when it starts getting dark at 3.30 in the afternoon. Our researchers felt they would be happy to do such an exercise again, but it would need to be spring or summer. What’s more, using iPads with automatic upload of completed data may be great from the overall research point of view, but from the interviewer’s point of view it means they’re strictly limited to one respondent at a time. If you have hard copy questionnaires that can be self-completed at least partially, you can work with a group of several when you catch them – perhaps as they emerge from a community centre event or are quiet-timing in the library. Some of our researchers were happy to do this and to accept the additional time required to key-in the responses. (And in the circumstances, as it happens, I’m comparatively relaxed about the risk of keying errors, although in other circumstances that would be a consideration). My last thought here is to reflect on the youngest of the group - who had struggled with one or two inconsiderate intermediaries, a number of failed appointments and other difficulties – telling us how she had most success in the local park at the weekend, when dog-walkers with unpressured time were willing to sit on a bench or even walk along, tapping at the iPad, just so that we could get our precious data. Continue reading
Posted Feb 13, 2015 at Neighbourhoods
‘I think for young people WiFi is almost a human right. You want us to succeed in the world and achieve our potential but nowadays that means accessing the internet for everything and we should be able to do this in a private and quiet space not just the communal area of a shared hostel.’ This comes from a new Lemos and Crane report on access, use and benefits of digital technology for homeless and ex-homeless people. The research uses two related samples – a questionnaire survey (the Lemos & Crane sample) and a survey conducted by Groundswell peer researchers. There are one or two striking findings. For instance: 73% of the Lemos & Crane participants said they used the internet to keep in touch with family and friends. That leaves a whopping 27 per cent who aren’t. 47% of the Groundswell participants agreed that the internet had information ‘which can make you paranoid’. This may be explained partly by the wording of the question, which seems slightly leading, but it’s still an indication of a sense of vulnerability. Participants typically felt confident using Facebook and other social media sites ‘but found office and word processing programmes difficult.’ ‘The majority learned by teaching themselves. Only 8% learned through training provided at services, typically older participants.’ ‘Problems included people posting unwanted pictures or comments on profiles, having profiles hacked and people finding them using Facebook with whom they no longer wanted contact. These specific concerns were mentioned by respondents across all age groups.’ Using an open question, the researchers found that participants expressed concerns about losing face-to-face contact with people: ‘There were two aspects of this concern: that loss of face-to-face contact would reduce levels of trust and connection between people, increasing isolation (67% of Groundswell respondents agreed that phones or computers stop people communicating properly) and that complex online systems would make accessing services more difficult.’ There’s a summary and a full report here (simple sign up required). (I recommend the full report as the summary shows signs of haste and lack of editing). Continue reading
Posted Feb 2, 2015 at Neighbourhoods
Apparently, the Wellington suburb of Tawa is the most "neighbourly" in New Zealand. Over the life of this blog I’ve referred a few times (e.g.) to the notion of ‘league-tabling’ neighbourliness, usually with a sense of half-disguised disquiet – a concern justified I think by the managerialism of recent governments. Much less frequently, I may just have expressed suspicions, once or twice, about the integrity of top-down commercial online systems operating at neighbourhood level. Let’s pop back to New Zealand, where it seems league-tabling has become a reality not through the insensitivities of target-obsessed ministers but as an expression of tacky commercial drive, through the online service Neighbourly. This is new to me, although I realise it may have been happening elsewhere around the world. As far as I can tell from this article (in a source owned by the same un-embarrassable company that owns Neighbourly), the suburb of Tawa has got to the top of the leaderboard by virtue of having more than 1100 residents signed up to the online system. That’s it. That’s the measure of neighbourliness. Dang, simple, how come I didn’t think of that? OK, I know, good stuff happens around online neighbourhood connections. And this isn’t ‘serious’ league-tabling; but it’s clear that some people take it seriously and think it has meaning. Which in turn makes it that bit easier for even a well-meaning government to follow suit in a determined manner. Continue reading
Posted Jan 27, 2015 at Neighbourhoods
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If you happen to be in or around east London on Tuesday, you might find this interesting: Steven Ball and Laura Oldfield Ford will present their individual responses to the social cleansing of the Heygate Estate through the screening of Steven Ball and Rastko Novaković’s film ‘Concrete Heart Land’, and the presentation of drawings and a live reading of texts produced by Laura Oldfield Ford. 6pm on Tuesday 27 January 2015 Film and Drama Studio Arts 2 Building (first floor) Queen Mary University of London Mile End Road London E1 4NS Laura Oldfield Ford is a London-based artist and writer concerned with issues surrounding contemporary political protest, urbanism, architecture and memory. Since graduating from the Royal College of Art in 2007 she has become well known for her politically active and poetic engagement with London as a site of social antagonism. She is the author of Savage Messiah. Concrete Heart Land, a film by Steven Ball and Rastko Novaković, exposes the social cleansing of the Heygate Estate in Elephant and Castle, South London. It marks the moment that the estate was finally lost as social housing to make way for an unjust 'regeneration' scheme. (Via URB-GEOG-FORUM@JISCMAIL.AC.UK) Continue reading
Posted Jan 23, 2015 at Neighbourhoods
I was drafting some text this afternoon about neighbourhood communication, for a project bid, when I was interrupted by a tap at the door. It was a neighbour, looking to return an outdoor ladder I had lent him a few days ago. It’s an ancient, heavy lump of a thing, possibly from the iron age, so we lugged it round together, which meant we had a couple of minutes to catch up briefly on domestic and personal news. In terms of the quotidian practice of neighbourly borrowing and lending, it was obviously unremarkable; but it illustrates nicely how ‘exchange of favours’ is not a watertight category, because it lubricates the exchange of information and other benefits that contribute to the valuable accretion of allowable knowledge, and hence a shared expectation of support that could be mobilised in time of need. (And yes, I am aware that mixing oil and water, as in the metaphor above, is questionable, but somehow I could not resist). Continue reading
Posted Jan 18, 2015 at Neighbourhoods
Ah, that was you was it?
Toggle Commented Jan 6, 2015 on Not seeing the neighbours around at Neighbourhoods
I just caught up with this paper last year by Gary Craig - who is always worth reading and hearing – offering a short history of community development in England. I’m glad I took the time. As the paper brings us up to date he notes (emphasis added): ‘There is a bipartisan view of community in Westminster which, paralleling the attacks on those who are not within the declining bubble of being hard-working decent people, sees community through the lens… of conformity, conditionality and moral prescription. Unfortunately most of the key organisations which might have contested this territory and the definitions it represents have either had to close or have been neutralised… ‘Remember that community development is not a neutral intervention but an ideologically contested one… Continue to ask yourself, whose side are you on? And if you are unsure, check back to the core values of community development, values which are about social justice and equality, respect and democratic control.’ Continue reading
Posted Jan 5, 2015 at Neighbourhoods
Here’s a curious survey finding: Almost 71 per cent of Kiwis cite ‘not seeing their neighbours around’ as the reason for not knowing them better. This comes from this article in Scoop, which I just caught up with, referring to a survey conducted by Neighbourly.co.nz, an online networking service. It echoes the theme of ‘occupation of the neighbourhood’ that I bang on about from time to time. Unfortunately I couldn’t find anything more about the survey on their site, but I assume that this phrase was one of a number of answer options, and perhaps the responses might have been ranked. It would be handy to know what the other options were. I also learned (here) that 78.6 per cent of respondents claim to have at least one neighbour ‘from whom they could borrow a cup of sugar’. This serves to remind me that one day I’d really like to include a survey question somewhere asking if anyone has ever borrowed a cup of sugar, anywhere. Where did this strange assumed tradition come from? And why is it perpetuated in surveys? Asking about holding neighbours' door keys might be more useful, I suggest. Continue reading
Posted Jan 4, 2015 at Neighbourhoods