Community Awareness

By on December 15th, 2017 in Articles, Human Impacts

It is delightful when the high profile leaders of our high tech companies present the case for positive social benefit as an increased area for their technology investment. Mark Zuckerberg did this in his Feb. 2017 “Building Global Community” manifesto. By acknowledging potential for community awareness as a significant aspect of Facebook, Zuckerberg is moving from “provider” to “facilitator.”

One key aspect of communities, not specifically called out in Zuckerberg’s post, is the concept of Social Capital. I associate this with Robert Putnam’s book “Bowling Alone,” and it is an ongoing point of discussion in Technology And Society Magazine. Zuckerberg (2017), and Putnam (2000) both decry the loss of community, and the need to find paths to restore the connectivity and trust that are an essential part of community awareness.

Mark Zuckerberg suggests some broad outlines on how Facebook can promote healthy communities, including ones that operate face-to-face at times. He points out some of the impact Facebook has had helping in times of crisis — the Orlando Shooting, hurricanes and disasters. He encourages community development with five specific concepts in mind:

  1. Supportive Communities – strengthening traditional communities — facilitating growth rather than decline
  2. Safe Communities – prevent harm, and lending a hand in times of need
  3. Informed Communities – developing new ideas, building common understanding — all based on credible sources of information
  4. Civically-engaged Communities – getting involved locally, voting, participating
  5. Inclusive Communities – welcoming the diversity of humans, ideas, experiences and respecting the value of these

These are great objectives, and it is delightful that Mark feels the technology of Facebook can be applied to accomplish these.

I will just point out that IEEE (Technology and Society Magazine‘s parent) is specifically mentioned in Putnam’s book as an example of a professional community that builds social capital. This is consistent with my experience …. connecting for common objectives (developing standards, reviewing papers, attending conferences, local chapter meetings, etc.) creates connections and community awareness. From this we collaborate in many ways — some are professional (do you know a robot expert, an antenna expert, a agile computing expert, a battery expert … all of those folks are part of IEEE).  But there is also the personal and non-technical aspect. Friendships, kayak trips, local tours, and much more.

All of this starts with individuals. With you developing community awareness. What are your communities (online, in person, other?) How do they fit into Zuckerberg’s five categories? How do you take full advantage of them? How do you grow them to be more effective?