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David Wilcox

Is digital technology a force for good or harm in our relationships? London lecture explores #socialisolation.

3 min read

Update: There is a transcript of David Robinson's lecture here together with plans to foster a community of practice for Relationship Centred Design to help relationships become the central operating principle of services.

On the one hand, the innovative use of technology may help us address loneliness and social isolation, according to a recent report from iotUK. The report cites a range of interventions that can help individuals maintain relationships, or make new connections.

On the other hand, as David Robinson argues in a powerful series of blog posts about Connecting Well, the effects of technology on our economy and communities remove many of the ways that we have connected in the past:

We have hollowed out the heart of our business with call centres, our high streets with cash points and self-service checkouts, our neighbourhoods with design that strips out interaction and our public services with carers commissioned for seven minute visits, retendered every three months. Fake relationships are as ubiquitous in 2017, and just as insidious, as fake news.

We have been here before. The agrarian and industrial revolutions disrupted social patterns and called for new ways of behaving. Social change followed but it took a while. Now we are again in that catch up phase. If the technological upheaval that has so changed and devalued relationships is the third revolution, then this is 3.2.

We can’t rewind the clock but nor should we accept a devaluation in the currency of relationships as the price of advancement.

This is the theme of David's lecture in London on Monday March 12: How relationships change the world, and where to go with what we know.

David is one of the most respected figures in London community development, with 40 years experience in the field. He and Will Horwitz developed a blog, and later edited a book called Changing London, before the last Mayoral election. He kindly agreed that I could republish his Medium blog posts, so you can see the series consolidated here.

What's refreshing about David's approach is that he recognises that we have to work through the detail of living with technology.

Banning or avoiding the technology or denying the overwhelming benefits of progress is futile and foolish. Instead we have to learn how to benefit from it in ways which don’t diminish our humanity but sustain and enrich it. We have to do things differently.

I'm looking forward to Monday's lecture, and taking discussions further at an that event Connecting Londoners and JustSpace are organising with Matt Scott on March 27: Smart City meets Network City.