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Posts Tagged ‘social networks’

Earlier this week, Erik Hershman, co-founder of Ushahidi, presented his project to our Stanford Peace 2.0 group.

Talk about exciting stuff! Ushahidi is a brilliant example of smart web and mobile technology put to the service of a very worthwhile social cause, in this case violence in Kenya. What enthralled me, was Erik’s announcement of the soon to be released, Ushahidi 2.0, ‘a free, open source version, rebuilt from the ground up that anyone will be able to use around the world’. Ushahidi just won the 2008 NetSquared Challenge

I can very well see having several Ushahidi sites, to cover various aspects of the climate  crisis, from food, to water, to natural disasters, to the witnessing of environmental deterioration. This way, citizens from all over the world can become live witnesses of the negative changes taking place in their environment, and get connected with the solutions to remedy these changes. 

Erik is also the guy behind Afrigadget, another project well worth checking out. 

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There is no disputing the importance of the social factor, in moving citizens along the greener path. One additional element to take into account, is the issue of personal relevance. How does one turn global warming solutions into personal benefits? Research shows that most direct way to interest people is through their pocketbook. Last, I would add the availability of technology to enable desired behavior changes.

Short and sweet for the bottom line, here is my secret green sauce recipe:

P (personal benefit) + S (social network) + T (enabling technology) 

Best examples of green ventures that understand the power of the PST formula, are in the area of home energy efficiencyAgilewaves, Greenbox, and Lucid Design Group show great promise.

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Some very exciting research in the field of social networks psychology, could revolutionize the way green ventures approach citizens. The latest study, by Dr. Nicholas Christakis of Harvard Medical School, and James Fowler of the University of California, San Diego, reports on the social factors in quitting smoking. It was published this morning in the New England Journal of Medicine, and is already creating ripples throughout the media, starting with the New York Times. From the study’s abstract:

The study examined the extent to which groups of widely connected people quit smoking together.

The results showed that:

  • Whole groups of people were quitting in concert 
  • Smokers were also progressively found in the periphery of the social network
  • Smoking cessation by a spouse decreased a person’s chances of smoking by 67% Smoking cessation by a sibling decreased the chances by 25% 
  • Smoking cessation by a friend decreased the chances by 36% 
  • Among persons working in small firms, smoking cessation by a coworker decreased the chances by 34% 
  • Friends with more education influenced one another more than those with less education. 
  • These effects were not seen among neighbors in the immediate geographic area.

Conclusions are :

  • Network phenomena appear to be relevant to smoking cessation. 
  • Groups of interconnected people stop smoking in concert, and smokers are increasingly marginalized socially.

These results are similar to results of a prior study from same authors on obesity. The network effect is at work not just in the halting of negative behaviors, such as smoking or unhealthy weight gain, but also in the spreading of positive life changes such as happiness. The latter will be documented in a forthcoming study by the authors on,’The Dynamic Spread of Happiness in a Large Social Network’.

The implications for climate strategies are obvious. Behavioral change conservation efforts, will work best if focused on groups, not just individuals. This is a confirmation of the research done by the ‘Nudge‘ team at University of Chicago. The smoking study also shows which clusters to focus on. Friends, as in Facebook or Twitter, coworkers as in Carbon Rally, spouses as in family systems

Thanks, Meryn, for all the links

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The bathroom sink seems to be the most propitious place for my ah-ah moments. This morning, as I washed my face, the realization of the water running a bit too long threw me into deep thoughts. What will it take to drive the global warming message home? What will it take for my new habits to become second nature?

I started playing with this notion of first and second natures. First nature for most of us is a world infused with assumptions of abundance and demands of convenience. Second nature needs to become a way of living based on limited material resources and respect for the laws of the natural world.

I wrote before about ‘What’s Bred In the Bone‘ and our propensity to fall back onto our old ways. The best that I can come up with, is that I – we – need help to develop and support that second nature. Help in the form of technologies, sensory/automatic reminders, consequences, practical solutions, consistent messaging, inspiring leadership, and supportive social networks.

Going back to the running faucet example, a simple solution would be to install a timer on the faucet. So that the environment trains me to behave.

 

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I got all excited with the news of the Google Transit website, as reported on Ecogeek, and Autobloggreen. Here was another cool tool to help me optimize my local transportation. Imagine my disappointment when I did not see Caltrain on their list. Right now, with their current alternatives, it would take me 3hrs 39′ to get from Palo Alto to San Francisco, using my two feet, multiple buses and BART. I guess they are still in the process of building up the site! Still, check it out. There is a need for more simple Internet green tools like this.

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We are social beings

Prad has been gone a little less than two days. I thought I would enjoy this weekend alone, and purposely did not schedule any social activities with my girlfriends. Fourty eight uninterrupted hours, that I could spend doing all the things I love most! Blogging, swimming, taking long walks, reading, vegging. With only a few interruptions from Catherine, on the rare occasions when she still needs something from me. The truth is, being alone sucks. And virtual connections are no substitute for flesh encounters with good friends, family, and even strangers. Every day, my eighty five year old mother goes out for grocery shopping. She does not need to go that often, but she ventures out, still, for the human interaction with the shopkeepers. “Otherwise, I would go crazy.” She lives alone, with only one neighbor she can visit. All her friends have died, and she lives far away from me and my brother. My mother has never been very good at making social connections outside of our immediate family. Over the years, her active social network has diminished to practically nothing. Her life is hell.

Socialization, the way it used to be

Being in the house, alone, I was thinking about all the ways that people socialize nowadays, versus, let say, fifty, a hundred years ago. And I went right back to my days on the farm, with my mother and my grandparents. Socialization was embedded in the fabric of our lives, then. Sunday was going to the market on the horse carriage to the nearby town. The market was a social event, where you got to meet all your friends from other villages. It took us forever to make our way through the whole square, so busy my grandfather was talking to one or the other. Then there was Sunday mass right after. The best part was sitting in the church, and feeling surrounded by the whole community, our community. Of course, the whole village was out and about during the day. Everybody knew everybody, and would stop at each other’s houses. At night, during winter, there were stories told around the fire. My favorite sitting spot was way in the far corner of the fireplace, real close to the flames. I had a little chair that barely fit. If I got too close, my face started to burn. Too far, I started feeling cold. I would spend my time, trying to find the right distance, while listening to the adults’ conversations. The highlight of the year was the batterie, a day of celebration for the whole village signaling the completion of a successful harvest for the wheat crop. Each year, the batterie took place in a different house, and I still remember the time whey we were the hosts. The women had prepared a feast and I had helped. The men, all sweaty from a day in the fields, were laughing and drinking wine, and everybody had something to say to me, la petite. We were pretty happy on the whole, back then. Our basic need for socialization was taken care of.

Estimated score on the collective happiness index: an 8. Total carbon footprint: zero, with the exception of the wood burning.

Socialization now, and why it’s not working

Things are different now. In Silicon Valley where I live, there is a lot of socialization, but you’ve got to plan it. I am fortunate enough to live in a great neighborhood, with neighbors who actually talk to and help each other. But the bulk of our socialization centers around driving from place to place, from activity to activity. For parents, it often means chauffeuring a bunch of kids in SUVs, to sports events. I live very close to the Stanford campus. The other day, I was walking at night, and noticed the soccer field, brimming with activity. There was a night game, and parents had come cheering. What got to me were the bright lights, and the amount of electricity that’s required for that type of social event. Shopping is another big pet peeve of mine. Shopping is a social outlet for many women, and men, and teenagers. All driving to the mall, often without any real need for anything. Only the need to shop. And to go to a place filled with people, with guaranteed opportunities for social transactions. These are just two examples. I keep reading reports that our happiness is way down. Our lives nowadays tend to be fragmented between various networks, that are geographically dipersed. This requires more work on our part, and results in more superficial social ties.

Estimated score on the collective happiness index: 4. Total carbon footprint: it’s going to kill us, unless we change our ways.

Socialization, as part of the green solution

In the search for a green solution, maybe we ought to consider strategies that address this fundamental need we have as social beings, for relatedness and community? It may not be all of the solution, but in my opinion, it ought to be a main part. Looking for ways to rebuild local communities, around non carbon producing activities, or even better, around carbon reducing initiatives. Recognizing that the deeper human need is not about consuming, but socializing instead. The emergence of virtual green social networks is a step in the right direction. It is only one step, however. Virtual connections can only go so far. Eventually, people need to meet, and feel physically connected to each other, around a common activity. The churches, the villages are gone. We need to find a substitute for the mall culture. To do with community, neighborhoods, nature, stories, rituals, work, play, and celebration.

Anticipated score on the collective happiness index: 8. Anticipated total carbon footprint: negative. What do you think?

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In the past few months, I have joined a number of green social networks. Some out of professional interest, others just because I really like their idea. So far, I have registered with, Lime, Zaadz, I am Green, Treehugger, Do the Green Thing, Wiser Earth, Sundance Channel, and a bunch of others I have already forgotten. This is on top of Facebook, and all the blog sites I visit daily. As much as I find these networks interesting, the reality is, I have not found one yet that has made it worth my time to stick around. Only exceptions are Treehugger, and possibly the newbie, Do the Green Thing. Treehugger’s got some cool videos, and forums where members actually interact with each other. And Do the Green Thing has the Green Wiki Thing, which I think is really, really cool.

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Ever wonder what people are really into? Go to the tag page on Del.icio.us. Here is what I found today:

  1. Most popular tags: art, blog, business, css, design, development, education, flash, free, howto, inspiration, java, javascript, linux, mac, photography, programming, reference, software, tools, tutorials, tv, video, web, web 2.0. webdesign
  2. Second most popular tags: ajax, apple, blogs, books, funny, games, graphics, health, humor, imported, internet, marketing opensource, photoshop, php, politics, productivity, recipes, research, resources, science, security, technology, tips, toread, travel, windows
  3. Third most popular tags: net, architecture, article, community, diy, download, food, freeware, fun, google, history, illustration, library, media, mobile, portfolio, python, rails, search, social, webdev, wordpress, work
  4. Fourth most popular tags: advertising, audio, blogging, cms, computer, cool, culture, database, fashion, finance, firefox, fonts, framework, hardware, home, html, iphone, jobs, learning, lifehacker, maps, microsoft, mp3, onlin, photo, ruby, ubuntu, visualization, writing, xml, youtube
  5. Fifth most popular tags: 3d, articles, collaboration, color, drupal, english, environment, facebook, gallery, game, gtd, images, magazine, movie, performance, photos, plugin, podcast, religion, rubyonrails, school, shop, typography,uk, usability,videos, wikis

There is only one tag in the green category. Can you find it?

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The guys at Do the Green Thing have a neat wiki project going, as part of their site. The Green Wiki Thing just started, and will be a communal repository for all the knowledge on what to do, to really save CO2 emissions. You just need to register, and then you can even add some of your wisdom to the pile.

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Green, green, green is everywhere. In the paper, the blogs, the social networks, in the venture capitalists’ mouths, on the buses, at Walmart. It seems that everywhere I turn, I hear, see green. That not much has changed, and that we are still headed for disaster if we don’t act, gives me a case of greenitis. Green overload, with no satisfaction.

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