Art – Tech – Eco – Culture could save the 21st century

What does Art-Tech-Eco-Culture mean? It represents a convergence of design, political will, mobilization and creativity that just may thwart the most dire climate change predictions.

I haven’t written enough about eco topics lately, but they have weighing on my mind, especially this past year. If you’re like me, it’s been difficult to stay focused in 2017. Each day when I wake up like Dorothy Parker asking “What fresh hell is this?” What keeps me moving forward? Action plans and recognizing where positive changes ARE happening.

If we focus on the negative, things can look hopeless…but something positive DID happened this year. The election of Trump re-invigorated and mobilized everyone concerned about the environment, social justice, economic justice, and health. Realizing also how connected these concepts are is no longer an abstract. It has became obvious in memes spread by middle school kids. When 11 year olds are ‘woke’ to these ideas we’re getting somewhere. The shift IS happening.

In the past year with Trump administration attacks on climate science, environmental regulations, groups and concerned citizens have been organizing like never before. Through social media, blogs, and small businesses, interests in ways to save the planet have sky-rocketed. Trends that have been simmering since 2006 have exploded.

It couldn’t come any sooner – In just the past month we’ve had at least 3 devastating hurricanes, unprecedented flooding and out of control wildfires in the west. The warnings Al Gore gave years ago as a nightmarish but distant future, are happening right now.

So, what are these trends I’ve been seeing – in stores, documentaries, book-sales, product sales, on social media, in local legislation, in laws around the world? By themselves they may seem small or inconsequential – but they are driving real changes in industries and policies around the world. Companies are shifting investments and product strategies because of these trends. Citizens are speaking up and demanding new laws.

recycling rates around the world

  • Plastic bag bansMother Nature Network has an interactive map of locales around the world that have banned plastic bags.

bag ban map

  • Rise of Tiny Homes
  • Interest in Minimalism
    • Growth in books and blogs on de-cluttering, simplifying, downsizing.
    • Swap party movement – articles showed up in blogs, on Pinterest – now even Oprah, Women’s Day, Weight Watchers and Good Housekeeping are telling Americans how to host a clothing swap party.
      • The average American throws away 70 lbs. of clothing and accessories each year. Instead – go to swap parties with your bags of clothing, books, accessories, home items. Visit with friends over drinks, snacks. Go home with new treasures. Remainders go to local charities.
  • Sustainable Farming
    • The Netherlands ,the second largest exporter of food in the world, employs techniques using 90% less water:
    • Aquaponics – chemical free, it also uses a fraction of the water used in conventional agriculture.
    • Permaculture – is about working with nature, not against it, to produce ‘permanent agriculture.’
  • Efforts to Reduce Food Waste
  • DIY movement
    • Thanks to YouTube and other forms of social media, it’s become possible to move being consumerism to create for ourselves.
    • Evolving into ‘Do it Together’  Bartering and communal efforts connect people and help share skills.
  • Growth of Veganism
    • This is huge – with animal agriculture accounting for more global warming gasses than the transportation sector. Documentaries have been uncovering these links and how leading environmental groups have been bullied by these industries to keep this quiet.
    • The documentary What the Health which aired on Netflix this year resulted in a spike of people waking up to the enormous impact that animal protein has on causing cancers, diabetes and heart disease. Moving to a plant-based diet will save countries billions of dollars in health care costs.
  • Decades of processed foods affect on Western gut bacteria has lead to an epidemic of immune disorders. This has spurred a movement toward reintroducing probiotics into our diets. (And I’m not talking about sugary, processed yogurt.)
  • Rise of interest in Yoga
    • This has been politically contentious in some Muslim and Christian communities who have decried this as somehow converting people to Hinduism. In truth, Yoga is enormously prevalent across communities in the world, of many religions. Sikh practicioners, for example, are not Hindu. This fear is as weak an argument as thinking that Westerners using ‘Zen’ practices to de-clutter their homes will turn them into Buddhists. Or that the Japanese celebrating Christmas will turn into Christians. It hasn’t happened.
    • In truth, the practice of yoga (and meditation!) across the world, among prison populations, urban schools, veterans suffering from PTSD, or refugees suffering from the traumas of war – has lead to tremendous healing.

 

Techno-diversity: toward an ecology of (social) networks

In debating the brewing “war” between Facebook, Twitter and GooglePlus it dawned on me that these services are really rather different. It would make greater sense for them to focus on and develop their strengths rather than race to homogenize themselves into identically mediocre platforms.

Twitter does something very unique and the kind of data dynamic that results from Twitters model, the way in which data flows in its network, is very different than that of Facebook because Facebook has primarily been a “walled garden.”  With the advent of groups, news pages, fan/business/institutional pages, this has become less so…but the interaction model is still very different than that of Twitter.  Facebook offers its non-person content files a different sense of “place” – something more static that can more easily collect threads of user content.  Twitter is “faster” and far more impermanent. This is not a better or a worse thing, just different.

Google Plus looks to offer a potentially unique blending of the two. Perhaps this is part of what Facebook is upset about….but one of GooglePlus’ strongest draws so far is its superior social filtering features – the intuitive and usable “Circles.”  See, users liked the ability to post within a walled garden…but we wanted to create rooms.  Facebook’s “lists” (among many other privacy features) were labryinthian nightmares.  But Facebook still has a world of content on there that it should develop ways to respect and protect (enabling searchability, the ability to tag and archive content) rather than trying to run after other services going “Me too!” and cursing the ingenuity of others. If Facebook doesn’t want to go the way of Yahoo’s mistreatment of Flickr or Delicious….it should pull its CEOs out of the parties and think hard about the Information Curation questions from the point of view of its Users (not its commercial sponsors).

I think there could be lots to learn from other network models that had advantages, but suffered executive hubris and neglect.  MySpace was a great site for small businesses and musicians.  Why? Let’s think about this…what could they do on MySpace that they could not do on Facebook?  I’ll touch on some of this later in this post, but feel free to chime in.

Tribe.net…..There is a great amount of content on Tribe.net.  What were the drawbacks in terms of Information Architecture….how did Tribe.net not succeed?  I am not talking about funding or policies..I’m talking primary about Information Architectural models. What was it about Tribe.net that made it “free-er” seeming than Facebook? What was off-putting?

And then there’s Livejournal. I could devote an entire post at least to the lessons we can learn from LJ.  There are many great features it has.  There are surely drawbacks as well.

My primary point however is that all of these need not try to be identical to each other. Yes, they could learn a lot from each other…but it is also good to have choice.  I enjoy Twitter in a different way than Facebook or GooglePlus.  If the latter two could evolve to pick up some of the archiving/search/usability features of LiveJournal….or allow for content promotion (while respecting artists’ content-ownership rights) like MySpace or Flickr….or allow for deep levels of cultural content like Tribe.net….We could really enrich the online cultural environment in ways that 1) in two months or two years content won’t be lost and 2) users could retain ownership of (or at least more easily control) their content rather than be merely providing free consumer research and promotional images and copy.

Facebook/Google+ Wish list

I’m enjoying the migration of personal/professional contacts over to GooglePlus this week and will soon document my thoughts regarding its difference from Facebook, but for now, there are features both networks glaringly do not offer.

I wish that Facebook or GooglePlus had social-bookmarking buttons to delicious.com or diigo.com for example, like published news sites offer.  It would be especially helpful if one is checking one’s feed during a time when one does not have the liberty to read an article, but wishes to flag it for later reading.

I also wish that there was a mechanism like the  ‘memories’ function in Livejournal to save (and tag!) memorable posts. That Facebook has been popular for the past 4 years and one still cannot tag, archive, search or export posts like Livejournal is pretty sad. I don’t know how much Google+ will offer in this regard.  I suspect that between these technical limitations and their ‘we own your content’  TOS,  there might be an uptick in people writing in blogs and using Twitter/FB/G+ for merely social chat and link-sharing.

But yes, there is no digital archiving function in these social networks (at least not personal archiving), nor can one backup one’s content. The lack of any real search or backup for all the other kinds of non-person content (fan pages, groups, institutional and business pages) seems a great risk for content management and data preservation. The librarian in me is bothered by this considerably.  Twitter is (in theory) searchable and is also currently backed up by the Library of Congress. So far the only ones we know is crawling and saving data from Facebook is the NSA.  Google? I have greater expectations for you. Don’t go the Farmville route.