Radical Convening, The Sharing Economy and How Hamid Views Salt & Technology
Last week I got a Lyft to the airport for the first time. I shared an Uber ride with a new friend on an airplane the last time I traveled to southern California (Hi Raj!) but this is the first time I’d requested an insta-ride myself. Part of my motivation was wanting to save some cash on a cab ride, part of it was time-crunch, and part of it was inspiration from an article in Wired about the sharing economy called How Airbnb and Lyft Finally Got Americans to Trust Each Other.
I was picked up by Hamid, a chef who has just come back from living on a WWOOF in South America and now drives for both Lyft and Uber and says that part of the reason he does it is because he likes to meet people. I sat in the front seat of his car and we talked about the sharing economy & technology (I told him what we do here at LittleeLit) and he told me about how all his professional experience has been with food in one capacity or another (he’s a chef and has also worked in sustainable agriculture). We talked about the prevalence of technology in our lives, and how there is great concern (for all ages) about technology use displacing interactions with other human beings. Hamid said that he likes to think of the technology as salt; salt brings out the flavor of food, but it is not the food itself. It is not what we need to keep on living.
I agree, new Lyft driver friend of mine. The uncomfortable conversations around details of how, why, when, with whom and at what age of technology use still focus on the technology itself, while what all of us need (babies, toddlers and preschoolers especially) are up-close and personal connections with other humans. Lyft and Uber have harnessed technology to facilitate connections between real-life human beings, and the technology is simply the salt, NOT the main dish.
Libraries are the oldest sharing institutions around, but I don’t think we’ve completely figured out how to harness technology to share as successfully as some of these newer services. Some of that is out of our control (down with DRM!) and some of it isn’t (what do you mean you have to send your tablet to the IT department to download apps and update the operating system before you can use it in storytime?!)
What can libraries learn about sharing assets and knowledge from these new models? How can libraries (and individual librarians, advocating as individuals for the institutions that they love) support the development of peer-to-peer networks without the legacy notion of authority looming over us in a way that perpetrates top-down, gateway-based edicts? Is there a place in between where we can take the best resources and know-how that we possess, and merge it with everyone else’s, and use the library as the place (virtual or physical) where connections and relationships bloom, facilitated by technology?
I want to create a community online based around the topic of young children & new media that radically convenes everyone who is currently concerned with the effects and affordances of new media on our youngest citizens. I want to take the inspiration of these sharing organizations and share out the assets that I have access to: librarians who are working on the issue of how to use technology intentionally and appropriately with young children in a way that supports the development of relationships.
This conversation is not about technology. It’s about people. Especially the very small ones.