Social networking around geography

Last week I was asked to speak on “Public Engagement Through Web2.0” at the annual conference of the California Chapter of the American Planning Association (APA).

It started with a request from Eric Fredericks, the guy behind the Walkable Neighborhoods blog, who I’ve known (and liked!) for quite a while now. I’ll happily admit I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect out of the crowd of planners, but I was someone excited since I spent seven years employed as a transportation planner and only asked to speak AFTER I left the industry! LOL!

The theme of the talk that I gave was on trying to understand how social networks can be built up around the concept of geography because I see it being a unique item that links both city/transportation planners and the real estate community. While most social networks are organized around friends (think myspace) or a shared experience (think facebook), the idea behind the communities that are most relevant to planners and real estate agents are rooted in geography…

What surprised me the most was that the questions I was asked during the Q&A were almost exactly the same as I get asked during the seminars I give for agents. Questions like How do you moderate comments?, How do you attract an audience? and How much time does it take?

However, there was one question I’ve never heard from a real estate audience, but I think it is an interesting because it forced me to think a bit differently about access to the real estate website. Essentially, a planner from a local government agency asked: If we set up a blog to communicate to our constituents, how do we reach the 30% or so that do not have access to the internet? I didn’t have a good answer for her (and I still don’t), so I’m glad that I kept quiet and let Eric give an answer. Nonetheless, the idea of being concerned with “full access” is not something I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about since my initial angle with this site was much more geared toward hitting the tech-savvy few!

I ended the talk with the concept that we’re not far from a day when our online social networks could have a very useful geographic element to them that could be of use to both real estate professionals and city planners. And while I can’t claim to know what that social network will look like, I look to Google Earth effort to bring avatars akin to Second Life and companies who are bringing in real-world experiences in Second Life for clues… Maybe we’ll hit the sweat spot of “web3.0” when Google replaces our mobile network with gPhones… 🙂

14 thoughts on “Social networking around geography

  1. Hey thanks, Dustin! You did a great job and will highly recommend you to anyone else (attention others: hire Dustin to speak at your next event!).

    I am also using the little trick you taught me to find out when others are blogging about you. I guess it works!

  2. Hi Dustin,

    I read this blog post on my pocket PC while sitting at McGrath’s Fish House eating dinner, which made me think that one answer to the question “how do we reach the 30% without internet access,” might be “the internet via a cell phone.”

  3. JS: I am assuming the vast majority of those 30% would be elderly. Many still do not use cellphones. Those who do rarely use them except in case of emergencies and many elderly still have o use for the Internet.

    A good question would be – who makes up the majority of that 30%? Poor, elderly, or whom?

  4. Great question Derek… By the way the question was phrased, I assumed that the woman was talking about minorities, but I can’t remember why… Either way, I don’t think she was quoting a national source, but rather, internet access in her community.

    When looking at the issue from a city-planning perspective, the woman was making the point that it is important to reach out to the entire community and if the “entire” community doesn’t have access to the internet, then they will need to make sure not to rely too heavily on the internet for their outreach.

    Jillayne brings up the great point that cell-phone ownership is becoming almost ubiquitous, so reaching the non-internet population via some other technology is becoming more realistic every day.

  5. Most public libraries (and probably many public schools) have PCs w/ internet access, so those on the other side the digital divide can participate in a digital democracy.

    I’m guessing the poor makes up the majority of that 30%? I suspect recently retired elderly used computers in their former jobs (and know what their value is). My parents are old and they use the internet. Heck, I think I was the last one in the family to get cell phone.

  6. One of my daughters asked me to finally join MySpace so I can see her tattoo work. She also gave instructions for me not to post a photo as it is weird to see her Dad there now amongst her friends who are hanging out and drinking beer.

    My three daughters post lots of photos there that I want to see. My eldest daugter says it’s kind of creepy to have my brother talking to her in there, though I wouldn’t mind talking to him there.

    I do think there are some age expectations to these social platforms. But maybe those boundaries will be broken as the original members get older?

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