What do you do when you find yourself with a lot more time and a lot less money on your hands than you’re used to? That may be the most important question of 2009.
Dougald Hine has been thinking about how social media can be a tool for coping with the effects of the current Great Depression, and comes up with a dual strategy:
1) using social media as resource management tools for those with less money and more time
2) using a new type of physical spaces where one can remain productive
1. Social media as a resource network
“What follows is not a particularly structured list, though there are a few themes.
The basic idea is that we’re talking about digital resource-maps for people who have lost access to the market as a source of resources, with an aim to be an enablement tool for all levels of the participant community:
* Information sharing for dealing with practical consequences of redundancy or job insecurity. You can see this happening already on a site like the Sheffield Forum.
* Indexes of local resources of use to the newly-unemployed – including educational and training opportunities – built up in a user-generated style.
* Tools for reducing the cost of living. These already exist – LiftShare, Freecycle, etc. – so it’s a question of more effective access and whether there are quick ways to signpost people towards these, or link together existing services better.
* An identification of skills, not just for potential employers but so people can find each other and organise, both around each other and emergent initiatives that grow in a fertile, socially-networked context.”
2. Creating physical spaces
“If the aim is to avoid this recession creating a new tranche of long-term unemployed (as happened in the 1980s), then softening the distinction between the employed and unemployed is vital. In social media, we’ve already seen considerable softening of the line between producer and consumer in all kinds of areas, and there must be lessons to draw from this in how we view any large-scale initiative.
As I see it, such a softening would involve not only the kind of online tools and spaces suggested above, but the spread of real world spaces which reflect the collaborative values of social media.
Examples of such spaces already exist:
* Media labs on the model of Access Space or the Brasilian Pontos de Cultura programme, which has applied this approach on a national scale
* Fab Labs for manufacturing, as already exist from Iceland to Afghanistan
* studio spaces like TenantSpin, the micro-TV station in Liverpool based in a flat in a towerblock – and like many other examples in the world of Community Media
Again, if these spaces are to work, access to them should be open, not restricted to the unemployed. (If, as some are predicting, we see the return of the three day week, the value of spaces like this open to all becomes even more obvious!) In order for this to work, such spaces would need to be organised with the understanding that hanging out can be as valuable as more visibly productive activities – both because of the resilience that comes from building social connections, and because of the potential for information sharing and the sparking of new projects. There would also be a need for incubator spaces for projects that emerge from these spaces and are ready to move to the next level.”