In this volume we have an entry from Avery’s Journey, media we are consuming, a deeper dive into the Washington Metro, and how slow listening has brought people together in Silverton, CO.
“People are afraid of what they don’t know, and their tendency isn’t to go into the cave that they’re afraid of but go around it.”
– Clark Anderson, Community Builders, see below
Avery hated the box. It sat in the corner, always on, always waiting, and always a reminder of the Schism. The box wasn’t outwardly menacing like other equipment deployed in the office or in the district, but any reminders of those difficult days were unwelcome.
Avery tried to explain what happened to the subordinate pool, but how can you explain how a theological difference of only a few degrees created such damage? How does one even explain the difference between two disagreeing parties, who looked no different to those outside their closed order, who suddenly erupted in coup and counter-coup?
If this had happened a few years earlier, the damage would have been less. Networked infrastructure and Moore’s Law intensified the destruction, as each side’s Augments and Helpers reacted to their owner’s power play. Containment was lost. What each party feared, and thus perpetrated their action, happened. What should have been merely board room maneuvers became real in unanticipated fashion.
The box was supposed to stop that. It was supposed to minimize the damage.
Avery believed in the power of the Box in this much like those who perpetrated the schism believed in their truth. But like all faith, it hadn’t been tested during Avery’s service, and no one was sure what tactics the Box would employ.
So it sat there. Always on. Always watching. Always waiting.
Read more dispatches from Avery’s Journey
Jennifer Pahlka’s Recoding America is full of interesting case studies and practical applications of working inside the public sphere. It’s basically a call to arms and inspirational book which is aimed primarily policymakers, but as someone in civic tech is a great touchstone to remind myself of what we are working towards.
Cyd Harrell’s A Civic Technologist’s Practice Guide is a great step-by-step field guide to public interest technology. It’s basically a 101-level primer, but it has some really good information for those who know the civic tech space already. It’s a quick read, and has great tactical advice.
I’ve probably watched Andor three or four times. The show, set in the Star Wars universe and ostensibly a prequel to the uneven Rogue One, is amazing set of storytelling and design. The majority of the show is composed of practical sets and effects, and the overall aesthetic is AMAZING.
Be sure to look around inside people’s homes, inside Imperial office spaces, and how people get around.
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Speaking of the Great Society Subway, I never realized that Harry Weese’s design was to continue the city street down into the metro stations. This is brilliant, and explains the choice of hexagonal glazed tile, concrete, and brass.
We continue to believe in Tactical Democracy and a spectrum of engagement and listening is the correct tactical way to engage the public. So the story from the New York Times from Silverton, Colorado where slow listening brought people together is another example of using a variety of tactics to help people envision their future.
Death threats poured into Fuhrman’s office. City Hall was shuttered for safety’s sake. An effort to recall the mayor was begun, a deeply personal affront in a tiny town where there is no anonymity even in a trip to the one grocery store. Silverton split along familiar political lines, with pickup trucks suddenly flying giant Trump signs.
Well before the trouble started, Community Builders, a nonprofit in Glenwood Springs, Colo., had been hired by Silverton to draft a new 10-year master plan for the town. The Compass Project, as the effort was known, would evolve from a prosaic task into a prolonged effort to heal the community.
Community Buillders would try to shut off that spigot by bringing residents together in the smallest of groups, away from microphones and public spaces, to see if they could find a common vision for Silverton’s future.
Community Builders asked questions that were intentionally open-ended: Why do you love to live here? What are your hopes for the future and your life here? What are your fears?
In retrospect, much of Silverton’s discord was tied to the Covid-19 pandemic, the retreat from common spaces and the advent of Zoom calls, with their alien feel.
Read: Divided by Politics, a Colorado Town Mends Its Broken Bones (gift link)