Sunday, May 15, 2011

My Facebook Note

This is a copy (ported by copy and paste) of my note on Facebook about this topic.

In 1970 I was privileged to benefit from meeting a visionary human being. Jack Scully operated a small shop in lower Manhattan. He called the shop "Everything for Everybody."

I'll expand on my early experience in these notes in future writing. But first I'd like to learn more about how this Facebook notes facility works. It seems to be a way to share longer bits of writing.

The words "Information Advocate" came to me about two weeks ago. I was invited to participate in a meeting at Temple University of people who are working on the "Digital Divide." You can see a web page about this event here:

Attendees included

Jonathan Latko (moderator)

- Former Mayor John F. Street

My friends Jay Cohen and Michele Masucci had invited me to participate in this. As things worked out, I sat next to Mayor Street. He opened the event with remarks about the City's effort to build Wireless Philadelphia. Since we then went around the table, each of us offering background about our work to offset the Digital Divide, and I was next to the Mayor, I got to be the last to speak.

I opened my remarks by saying how priviledged I felt to be invited. I told the group that I had probably been working on these issues for the longest since I started in 1970 with a small information shop on South Street where I was operating a kind of "Craigs List" for the people in the neighborhood using 3 x 5 cards." My shop was an extension of the street and offered information and referral to and about the people themselves.

Since I now run a computer thrift store and factory, I fit in nicely with the group of people assembled. They included a person from the City's department of technology and representatives of research teams working on Digital Divide issues. Mayor Street was himself a great advocate for technology and people's access to information.

However, I posed somewhat of a challenge to the group. I told them that people don't need technology and computers. What they need is information. Actually, I said that people need information, communication and trust.

These three things, I believe, are essential to the continued improvement of human society. And the last, TRUST, I feel is the most important of the three.

So, as the group continued to share ideas and issues: How are computer labs being built? what are issues around training people to use technology? How are people to gain access (at affordable prices) to the Internet? We were offered to build a list of issues that needed to be addressed. Mine was information advocacy... people not only need access to information, they need help making sense of the huge aray of available information, and they need to be able to connect with information that holds meaning for them in their community and in their lives. Information advocacy is akin to what librarians do. But I see it as being a bit of counseling, too. And I believe that we need to build an Internet based resource where people's needs and offers can be shared and found.

More on "needs and offers" with my next set of thoughts. Please use the comment feature here to add your ideas.

What is an Information Advocate?

Since this is a discussion to plan a network of neighborhood-based information advocates, it might be good to define what an information advocate is. My vote is for an information advocate to be a person. A live human being who practices the art and science of helping other people by recording and finding information.

The Advocate might be a librarian. But, that level of sophistication should not be necessary. It should be possible for ordinary people to assume the role of neighborhood information advocate.

Top on my list of skills the Information Advocate should possess is being a great listener. The Advocate should be able to help people by understanding them. That will always require patience and good listening. More about the characteristics of a good Information Advocate in upcoming entries.