The Future Dimensions of Community Participation and Volunteerism

While skeptics might argue that many parts of our world are becoming increasingly disconnected and irrelevant as the societal dust continues to settle here in the information-saturated internet age, I believe the ongoing evolution of technology will yield expanded interactive opportunities to not only communicate but also to engage in collaborative participation and volunteer our time in ways and at levels which seemed previously inconceivable.

What is social media you ask?  social media, also sometimes referred to as web version 2.0, is the ever-expanding host of internet-based technologies designed to foster two-way interactive online communication between those with uniquely shared interests.  MySpace, Facebook, Second Life, blogs, wikis, text messaging, Linked In, eVite and Meetup are all examples of popular social media technologies.

Using the World of Naperville as an example, this blog has provided not only a source of information but a point of connection between those with either a passion or mere curiosity about our community.  Interaction has taken the form of comments, email exchanges and many face-to-face meetings which have resulted from the online dialogue.  Given the fact I work outside of our community yet have a strong passion for Naperville and orientation toward community activism, this social media tool has not only enabled me to participate in and facilitate dialogue regarding community issues but has also allowed me to make connections with others ranging from local leaders to individuals living on the other side of the country looking to move to the area.

By no means do I consider myself to be what many would call a “digital native”.  I grew up just like many of you in a world of electric typewriters rather than PCs (my dad had two manual Royal typewriters).   I consider myself to be a digitial immigrant or someone who has proactively embraced technology in seeing the evolving mainstream possibilities which will continue to advance our society.   

While many may be quick to dismiss these technologies as a pastime for younger generations, introverts and frightening predators, the new frontier of social media itself is in its infancy and growing up rapidly each and every day.  As a society, we have yet to realize the full potential and application of social media in our traditional mainstream lives.  Largely, I believe social media technology is not as “otherworldly” as it may seem, but rather a new and innovative spin on traditional communication norms and practices.

While the corporate world has attempted to lead the charge in “owning” and leveraging new interactive technologies largely for marketing purposes, the true value of the social media world belongs to any critical mass of people with uniquely shared interests looking to not only engage in meangingful interactive discussion but also to participate in the advancement of thought and activity in the realm of their shared area of interest.  In essence, social media is all about volunteer social participation. 

To realize the true potential of the social internet medium in terms of community participation requires shifting the current paradigm of participation in the minds of community leaders and residents alike.  Further, it may provide some comforting reassurance to understand that social media, by design, could be considered “bridge” technology for it’s potential to transition the online world into traditional face-to-face interaction and participation.  Social media will also continue to remove the traditional cost and barriers of participation in opening up opporutnities to a larger pool of those looking to engage, interact and participate in either the online realm or in person.

Why is participation so important?  The success of Naperville is rooted in the success of its people.  Participation represents a personal investment which instills a sense of belonging/engagement which can ultimately lead to a high degree of loyalty and activism.  As you will recall from previous postings along this same subject line here at the World of Naperville, its the people and the inclusive nature of participation which creates a powerful and memorable experience and comprises the heart and soul of any community.

As next generation versions of social media and internet technology continue to evolve and utilization expands, I encourage all for-profit and not-for-profit organizations within Naperville or any community of like-minded people to see the potential this communication medium represents on a local, regional, national and even global scale.

More to come… SM




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