Hyperlocal is People and Technology

An interesting synchronicity (dare I say even a synergy?) presented itself in two different firefox tabs while catching up on my rss feeds the other day.

In one tab, Andrew McAfee arguing that sometimes “It’s not not about the technology

In the other, Jeff Jarvis arguing that “Towns are hyperlocal social networks with data (people that is)

At first glance this might seem like a debate waiting to happen: McAfee arguing that he’s growing weary of hearing people say “It’s Not About the Technology” and Jarvis saying “It’s Not About the Technology.” But if you look at what both are actually saying, a synthesis makes more sense.

Thesis, McAfee. He points to the cliche “It’s not about the technology” and explains how in some contexts that perspective can be dangerous:

This perspective is dangerous because it essentially denies two important facts: that technologies can differ from each other in salient ways, and that they can change over time. Losing sight of either of these can lead to confusion, or worse. . . .

INATT, version 2, also encourages the view that there’s nothing new under the sun — that one generation of technology aimed at addressing a business problem is the same as all other generations. So (for example) we need to collaborate and share knowledge better, but it’s not about the technology. We’ve been disappointed with our past results in these areas for reasons that have nothing to do with the technologies we were using, and there’s nothing about any new technologies that give us better chances of success now.

This sense of INATT is pessimistic and self-defeating, even if it’s not intended to be. It denies that there can be improvements, incremental or radical, in the ability of technologies to accomplish important goals. I disagree categorically with this. . . .

Sometimes, at least in part, it is about the technology.

Antithesis, Jarvis: He returns to the discussion of hyperlocal online, and argues that, for those trying to deliver hyperlocal:

Local is people. Our job is not to deliver content or a product. Our job is to help them make connections with information and each other.

. . . I’m not suggesting that hyperlocal is just a social networking tool. Or just a forum. Or just a bunch of blogs. Or just a listings tool. Or just a search engine. Or just a news site. It needs to end up being all those things and more. And as I said the other day, this will not happen in one place, on one site, but will be distributed across wherever people are being people and communities communities, locally. The trick, once more, is to organize it all. Elegantly.

Synthesis: Those trying to deliver hyperlocal solutions need to recognize the social connectivity already in place within communities, and orient themselves not around content delivery or product delivery, but around facilitating connections between people, and providing elegant organization. Applying the right sets of technologies in the right ways is what will make this possible in new, innovative, and potentially revolutionary ways.