Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Social Capital: A Positive-Sum Game

I just got back from Hot Dog Diplomacy, a gathering of local bloggers, commenters, Tweeters, City Council candidates, local hot dog fans, and friends and family thereof. It was proposed on a blog (www.richardhowe.com) after its author had a light-bulb-over-the-head moment while talking to the owner of the just-reopened Elliot's -- why not bring together the online community together to celebrate the reopening? This came, of course, on the heels of a lot of recent online discussion about the pros and cons of anonymity as well as the recent Gates-Crowley incident in Cambridge (hence the title of the event). The idea was born, the blogs and Facebook were the media used to publicize, and a lot of people just had a great time.

The event didn't cost anything to put together and it didn't monopolize anyone's time or have any dominant viewpoint or agenda...on the contrary, it was really just a bunch of people hanging out in the store and out on Elliot Street meeting new people (bridging social capital) and catching up with people they already know (bonding social capital).

Events like these strengthen the community because they increase our overall level of social capital without any cost to anyone. We all get to eat from the pie, but when we do, there isn't anything missing...in fact, it's actually bigger when we all walk away.

The easy thing to say is 'let's do this more often,' which works to the point that it's not over-diluted. For what it's worth, I'll throw out that once every couple months seems like the ideal periodicity for open events like this that bring the online world into the real world.

At least four City Council challengers were present: Franky Descoteaux, Paul Belley, Ryan Berard, and Patrick Murphy.


loompress said...

Yeah, social capital formation. Good mile-high view of the front-stoop gathering. I like the pie metaphor. Lowell needs to bake a bigger pie so people don't feel that they have to compete so fiercely for what they may perceive to be a static or shrinking pie. The bigger pie goes to the "vision thing" --- who's got the best recipe for the bigger pie?

Anonymous said...

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The New Englander said...


Great question about the pie...hopefully that gets addressed during this election season -- clearly, we need less tribalism, less provincialism, and more openness to the big world outside. Whoever can put that vision forth in this year's CC and SC races will get my votes..