Friday, August 14, 2015

Happy Cities (5) Stranger Deficit

In Happy City, Charles Montgomery outlines the results of stranger deficit.

For thousands of years, city life naturally led people toward casual contact with people outside our circle of intimates. In the absence of refrigeration, television drive-thru, and the Internet, our forebears had no choice but to come together every day to trade, to talk, to learn and to socialize on the street. This was the purpose of the city.

But modern cities and affluence economies have created a particular kind of social deficit. We can meet almost all our needs without gathering in public. Technology and prosperity have largely privatised the realms of exchange in malls, living rooms, backyards and on the screens of computer and smartphones.

Tellingly, the word community is increasingly used to refer to groups of people who use the same media or who happen to like a certain product, regardless of whether its members have actually met.

As more and more of us live alone, these conveniences have helped produce a historically unique way of living, in which home is not so much a gather place as a vortex of isolation.

So far, technology only partially make up for this solitude.

A growing stack of studies provide evidence that online relations are simply not as rich, honest, or supportive as the ones we have in person (p.153-154).

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