Bowling alone and the visual world of Pinterest

This week Clay Shirky pointed out some interesting points starting with Robert Putnam’s “Bowling Alone.” He first notes the idea of the weakening of community in the U.S. or that participation in group activities was is in decline due to increased hassle and additional cost. Now this idea may very well be completely true in large cities and suburban areas. However, I would argue that rural communities are a bit different. For example, my town of Laramie, Wyoming, has about 30,000 people. It’s a place where people still wave at neighbors; a place where rec centers still thrive even though memberships are expensive; and a place with an active curling league (yes…curling), multiple mom groups, and a thriving Rotary club. Now Shirky noted that this idea of a weakening community makes for a “lost world of Rotary clubs and ice cream socials” (p. 192). I found this interesting because Rotary in my town is of course a big expense, yet has many, many members and if you’re a working professional and not in Rotary, good luck. Community is still important here, and not just online, as most of Laramie residents don’t even use Twitter.

Let’s take my idea of rural towns still building community a step further. Drive 30 miles out of Laramie and you will hit the town of Centennial, Wyoming, population of about 300. The rural residents of this town don’t just wave at their neighbors; they know them by name and invite them over for Thanksgiving. The tiny town has a devoted book club, numerous volunteers that basically run the branch of the public library, and definitely know when you’re not a local. These are the type of people who are not using social media for communication because they still  have the physical community so many places have lost.

As Wyoming residents are such slow adopters of new media, I’m sure our turn will come of the weakening of community and lack of participation in group activities. To an extent, this weakening has already begun to show a little.

My favorite quote from the book this week was about Shirky’s experience teaching a course called “Social Weather.” The quote reads: “The course title was an analogy to the way the weather affects our mood; in the class we were looking at how social groups create an emotional environment that affects all the participants” (p. 203). This stuck out to me because of how accurate it is.

Besides the two book chapters, this week’s readings included “How journalists and newsrooms can use Pinterest” by Steve  Buttry.  This was an interesting read because of the many similarities to how libraries and librarians use Pinterest. At the library I work in, we have many of the ideas for boards that the blog reading suggested. There is our all-things-Laramie board, a board about Little Free Libraries (we just got one in Laramie, this is pictured in my scavenger hunt Storify), and a staff picks book board. Then we have a bit more fun and try to increase engagement with our cool library cards board, great places to read board, and edible books board. If any of these sound good, follow us on Pinterest!

The last reading was “Learn how to shoot decent photos” by Mindy McAdams. I used to TA for a photography class and Mindy has some good and proven tips to share.


One comment

  1. Very good, Caitlin. I think you have a good point about small towns. In some ways that’s what so interesting about Facebook – in some ways, maybe it’s a kind of return to a small town mindset where it’s normal to share the minutiae of your day with people – the idea that all that stuff is private is actually kind of a modern, urban one. I love that Shirky quote, too.

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