Here's something I just published over at My Stoney Creek:
Most of the action at Teresa & Co's site has to do with the 'Perspectives Virtual Panel: The Best Place to Raise a Child' article.
Well, the fallout.
Actually, it has to do with the non-responses from councillors.
Um... As a matter of fact, it has to do with engagement...although not just the absence of the stuff on the parts of 13 of 16 Council members, but also how people are seeing the need for residents to press their representatives at 71 Main Street West more.
Anyway, here's part of a comment about engagement from my new online best friend 'Sorce':
"Doing it online is efficient and allows messages to get out to the masses immediately. So this is a very powerful tool for people to engage and , coining a term from my friend My SC, for the "employer" to discuss issues with those we elected."
Erm... Yes, it is. Efficient and allows messages to get out to the masses immediately. And a very powerful tool to engage with. However...
'It ain't real until you kiss 'em.'
That's something I learned about a decade and a half ago...at great expense.
And this truth definitely informed my founding of Town Halls Hamilton.
Why? Why is it important, in this electronic day-and-age for an exchange to take place in-person? What difference does it make where the dialogue occurs?
'Because we weren't born with modems.'
Seriously, because nothing will ever obviate the fact that we are animals, thinking, touching, feeling creatures who have basic instincts, and the most authentic, the most 'human' experiences are when we're in front of each other, breathing the same air.
Yes, it would be easy to say this is a generational thing. And I don't want to pull out my standaard 'If cell phones or the Internet was so necessary, so capable of effecting so profound a level of change in our lives, how come the world's not really that much better, how come we're not living in a world of perfect relationships? Huh...?' And yet I just have. : )
Online commenting can be a very powerful tool for people to engage each other. But it is not the arena where primary, fundamental discussions should be taking place between residents and councillors.
Ever seen Councillor Merulla go at it hammer-and-tongs on Facebook? Ever seen one of his co-horts lose it on Twitter?
Online postings, comments sections, typed back-and-forths just don't cut it. They can be illuminating, they can be entertaining, they can certainly be electrifying. But I believe they have the potential to diminish and degrade the 'dialogue' part of the governance process.
If it's important, if it matters, then it deserves a proper delivery. In-person. Where you can see each other. Where you're breathing the same air. Where, as human beings, we can do what no other creature on Earth can do in the same way, to the same extents, with the same profound depth, with gesture and grimace, tenor and tone, body language, gesticulation, intonation, connotation and implication: communicate.
Online participation is a wonderful adjunct, a spectacular addition to letters and the phone...but they are all poor substitutes for actually being there.
So go on; kiss 'em.
M Adrian Brassington