Despite all of the technological advances available at our fingertips and the fact that we can communicate with anyone, anywhere, at any time across the globe, we still require direct human-to-human contact. There's a great deal you can say to someone when you're typing away behind your keyboard, than…
Despite all of the technological advances available at our fingertips and the fact that we can communicate with anyone, anywhere, at any time across the globe, we still require direct human-to-human contact. There's a great deal you can say to someone when you're typing away behind your keyboard, than when you're face-to-face in a room together.
Humans have always gravitated towards meeting places. New ideas have been borne in piazzas, smoky pubs, churches, art galleries and coffee houses. Gathering places are crucial in forming and maintaining a sense of community, so it's not surprising that crowd-powered reporting and blogging are growing exponentially.
Until now, there really hasn't been a single place that unites residents of the Sea to Sky corridor. People tend to separate themselves based on geographic locations — Whistler, Squamish, Pemberton or Mount Currie, each with their unique brand. But despite our local differences, we also share many similarities.
Increased dissatisfaction with the media's watered down news and biased coverage has given rise to participatory media sites like The Citizens' Media, Orato and OhMyNews to create new virtual gathering places. As we come together for the 2010 Winter Olympic Games or battle common economic or environmental issues like run of river projects, we will need a space where we can come together with a common voice.
Citizen journalism sites have filled two voids. They allow people to report first-hand news they think is important to their community and bring to life stories considered too marginal by the local press. In the past, reporters could cherry pick the stories they wanted to cover. Now, the power to shape the news lies in the hands of ordinary citizens. The Internet has made it possible for people to come together, share ideas and create spaces for dialogue and reflection, regardless of gender, ethnicity or income brackets.
Secondly, in an expensive resort town like Whistler where costly real estate trumps all and affordable public spaces are denied to community groups, participatory media will revolutionize the way we meet and share ideas. Anyone with an Internet connection and a story to tell can participate. We can finally begin to share the stories that have been waiting to be shared.
In January 2008, Whistler's new 14,500 sq. ft. public library will open, complete with oversize couches, a coffee bar, children's reading areas, outdoor seating, a fireplace, meeting rooms and free wireless access. I hope that this new library will create a public space similar to the one created online. A place that everyone can enjoy and participate in — young, old, rich and poor. It's in these public (or virtual) gathering places that a community comes to life, and becomes more than just a collection of private spaces.