Thursday, October 15, 2009

Somewhat related to yesterday's question du jour, an organization that gets to the heart of a sticky problem:

Until now, information on neighborhoods has been buried in the back of academic reports, pinned to community center bulletin boards, and locked in data sets only available to planners, inaccessible to those who would benefit from it the most: housing seekers looking for a better neighborhood. will leverage the power of this information by combining these and other data sources into a single mapping engine built into a full-featured site that includes guides, tools, calculators, forums, and social networks, all designed to foster racial and economic integration.

Previous integration initiatives have proven costly and focused on families receiving public aid. Housing seekers with unlimited funds have always had the luxury of living where they choose. But for millions of families who have limited resources, finding the right neighborhood is difficult. will educate housing seekers about the benefits of integrative moves while at the same time providing suggestions on where to move, guides on how to move, and information on how to get involved in their new neighborhoods, inspiring pride in a new community and putting them on a path to true integration.

I emphasized the part that concerns unintentional immobility, the lack of locational choice resulting from a paucity of information and knowledge. This shortage was exploited to the hilt during the industrial era. The female workforce still suffers from a captive labor situation.

Access to information isn't the issue. Knowledge, not information, drives migration. A better predictor is trust. I can cite all the statistics and demonstrate keen knowledge of Pittsburgh neighborhoods. But you won't consider moving to Pittsburgh unless you trust my assessment. won't succeed in its efforts if it can't build up the requisite social capital. I think this where social media experts could be of great service.

A good example of such an approach is PittsburghToday, which recently announced a relaunch of its website. Behind the social media makeover are 3 Rivers Connect, deeplocal and Active Interface. I like the new look, but I have no idea how it will build up knowledge and trust. We're still feeling our way around these new forms of community. I suggest a study of diaspora and other social technologies that help trust overcome distance. There is a clear need for such research.

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