I just returned from the Advisory Neighborhood Commission Meeting for ANC 2-C, and boy was it a mess. Commissioners Padro, Chapple, Brooks, Curtis and Thorpe were all at each others throats, and the constituents in the room were at their throats…it was a train wreck. Anyway, on to technology…
Prior to attending the meeting, I read an article on www.shawdc.com about two previous meetings (for the months of March and April) being canceled because Chairwoman Brooks did not want the meetings to be filmed. Whether that was the only reason is still to be determined, but, if true, it is interesting to see the lack of transparency that this commission had in not allowing their antics to be videotaped. Note: it is perfectly legal to videotape these hearings as long as the videographer has permission from the owner of the property.
As I walked into the conference room of the Africare House at 440 R St. NW, first thing I noticed were two men at the end of the table closest to the door settling up video cameras to their Mac Books…vLoggers! A local blogger over at www.offseventh.org was there ready to capture the hearing on tape. I felt the kindred spirits reading to rip the democratic process open to show the world what was really going on in our little dot on the map called Shaw.
So as the hearing carried on, and as tempers started to flair, the division in the room became evident: black divided from white, middle class divided from lower-income residents, and even old school residents from the new school residents. The undertones in peoples remarks were pretty evident, and the atmosphere became really uncomfortable. Out of all the comments made, two stuck out to me: an older woman stated “I am tired of reading all these negative blogs talking about the people of this community”; and another woman stating “we didn't all inherit mommy and daddy's money, some of us work…not all of us can afford computers.”
These comments followed comments made by Commissioner Thorpe to Brent Kruse of Shaw Main Streets, in which he, as well as others in the room, bashed the organization for being closed and not doing outreach to the community. People were frustrated that this organization has control over the businesses that go up on the 7th and 9th St. corridors, but they never invite people to their meetings. His repeated response was, “if you go to our website…”
My first inclination was to join in the Shaw Main Streets bashing, supporting the argument that not all residents have computers. But, i quickly became distracted by the two bloggers as well as some others in the back with cameras (all of which were the ones being called new comers), were yelling back places where people can get free Wi-Fi access or can use a computer with internet access. Again, there was that class divide.
I think as techies, we get trapped in a bubble. We are in this fantastic world where people are all about community and innovation, promoting things like open source, open API's, open ID, etc. We have vlogs, social networking sites, and Second Life. WE get so amazed by our world that we fail to realize that for the majority of America, this stuff doesn't exist.
Transparency in politics and society in general can truly be ichanged by technology. We have so many resources at our fingertips to hold people accountable and to fight for our rights as human beings. But, if we fail to respect other human beings in the conditions they are in and realize our world is not the only world, we fail to really use technology to change the world for the better.