New communications systems should provide members of a community with the means to coordinate their interactions within the same virtual universe of knowledge.
Yeah, right. So?
Well, if we buy in to this, and accept that the challenge of the net is to find ways and means to create a fully transparent market for ideas, arguments, projects, initiatives, expertise, and resources, we need to set to work not just on enabling people to get online but also finding ways and means to liberate and connect the lone bloggers - or people locked in the pleasure or pain of this flaming tomb:
There's amazing work going on in the UK just now devoted to encouraging people to win access to the net and 'connect the connected'.
The work is led by some key individuals like Will Perrin of Talk About Local, Helen Milner of UK Online Centres, David Wilcox of Social Reporter, Dominic Campbell of Future Gov and the team behind the social media handbook Social by Social, funded by the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts.
Initiative is fuelled by U.K. Government policy that's determined to broadband the nation, media organisations trying to realign themselves to "the people formerly known as the audience" and a bubble of evangelism for online social media.
But how to capture what Lévy called the potential of cyberspace to implement a form of computer-mediated civility?
How to connect the dots at the most local level - and for social good?
In the run-in to our online social media workshop in Butetown, Wales last week, a group of people shared examples of web-spaces that seek to liberate the lone blogger and aggregate content at the most local level.
B13 - a site that aggregates information from blogs, feeds and other sources related to the suburb of Moseley in Birmingham, West Midlands.
Created in Birmingham - a site that links the city's creative communities online presence.
Hylocal News Wire - created by Jon Bounds, "a pipe I’ve created that attempts to marshal the content from hyperlocal blogging in Birmingham and allow people only to subscribe to feeds that interest them".
Kings Cross Pageflakes - created by Will Perrin that takes feeds from local websites and scrapes sites without RSS
The Londonist - a journalist-written blog whose breadth of source material speaks to the idea of aggregating a diversity of grass-roots content.
Planet Balham - a site that 'takes' feeds from a district of South London and its surrounding area.
Everyblock - that combines photos, local government announcements, data and news items for 15 major U.S. cities.
Some of these sites speak to the idea of journalists as "community weavers" and the great American tradition of community media, digitally vitalized by initiatives such as the Knight Foundation's News Challenge.
But all establish and explore the value of aggregating content at the most local level and (potentially) look forward to a moment when, much like community partnerships in urban renewal, there may be an opportunity to network networks and create a local 'knowledge space'.
The link between this work and social and economic renewal is now starting to be captured in a group called Local Communities.
They don't collect much intelligence though. There's insufficient supply of locally-generated content and the platforms are controlled by outsiders.
At our design workshop, we discussed a process by which Butetown might start to connect the dots and look to develop a 'hyperlocal' knowledge economy - something that I'll report back on soon but that also, critically, local net users need to decide to advance.
But in the meantime, power to the force that Lévy described as new proletarians, auxiliary workers devoted to effecting the mutual liberation of isolated thoughts.