The cartoon above appeared in a 1907 issue of the magazine Punch
The caption reads: "These two figures are not communicating with one another. The lady is receiving an amatory message, and the gentleman some racing results." They are turned away from each other, antennae protruding from their hats. In their laps are little black telegraph boxes, spewing ticker tape. Today the cartoon has become reality, and the source of distraction the cell phone.
Like so much of technology, the cell phone has served to undermine human relationships. Software platforms such as Facebook have exploited a yearning for community by providing a fake version where friends barely know, cooperate or help one another. Sophisticated marketing systems using billion dollar computers will continue to coral our attention and our time. We need to wake up and envigorate the social worlds they undermine.
Social relations unwind online. When the driving force behind the Vancouver Community Net put the first edition of the Citizen's Handbook up on the web in the early 1990's, he had great hopes that VCN's online forum would generate meaningful discussions of city issues. Within a few months he became hopelessly disallusioned as the forum sank into a morass of bickering, attacks and general incivility.
The Troublemaker's Teaparty is a print version of The Citizen's Handbook published in 2003. It contains all of the handbook plus additional material on preventing grassroots wilt, strategic action, direct action and media advocacy. You can get a copy of The Teaparty from Amazon or from New Society Publishers.