Just finished an interesting community meeting (conducted in our hammock shop so people can make hammocks while we gab about community process). We recently laid fiberoptic cable throughout the community for our new phone system, and now we’re faced with the question of whether we want to have our computer network and the internet accessible in our residences. Right now, we only have network and internet access in our main office building, in an area of the community called the courtyard. People can have personal computers in their rooms, but we don’t have individual phone lines or access to our network of communnally accessible files.

The biggest implication and concern for me is looking at what kind of cultural shifts this would encourage. Right now, if anyone wants to check their email or work on the internet, they come to a public building and work in a space where they’re likely to engage with other people. Making the internet accessible to people in their private rooms, and even in their individual residences (we live in buildings of 10-20 people each), it means that we’re creating a situation where people are less likely to communicate and interact with the people we live with. Not that all social interaction is inherently good and all solitude is bad, but that we’re already working against the gravity of the individualized and compartmentalized mainstream culture, and this would make the slope even slipperier.

I enjoy community meetings because it’s a reminder that we’re in this together, as a group of individuals looking at our responsibilities to the greater whole. At least, that’s how I experience them. I see other people using it as a forum to express their hard-line opinions that they aren’t open to changing (though that really didn’t happen at this meeting). We had a presentation by one of the techies who’s worked a lot on the phone and computer system, then a go-round where people talked about their concerns and suggestions, and then a brainstorm about “next steps”, how to move forward. We agreed that there will be an informant posted by the computer services team, then a salon-type meeting to have an in-depth discussion about cultural implications, then a written survey to all of us in the community about what we want. I like that we’re having group discussions first, before the survey, because I want to understand what other people think and feel before I submit my opinion of what the community should do.

and now it’s dinnertime, and I get to sit down and eat socially with the people that I’ve been discussing these political issues with. Have I mentioned lately how much I love my life?

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