Headlines: July 22nd, 2004

The debate on the development of new localism has turned to technology with a vision of local government developing a unique role within localities. The publication of ‘Invisible Villages: techno-localism and the enabling council’ by the New Local Government Network opens up the prospect of councils developing their community leadership role in a way which can help them respond to diverse and complex needs.Social software is an increasingly popular tool for the development of voluntary, bottom-up social networks. Already, some social network sites, such as Orkut, have become popular amongst certain niche communities. Orkut is an online community that connects people through a network of trusted friends. The website provides an online meeting place where people can socialize, make new acquaintances and find others who share their interests. Although government has no role in informal and private socialising, the technology can be used to engage communities and individuals.

The authors show that although technology and the internet often seem to support moves towards non-local communication, the technology offers new ways for the real shared interests based around locality – ‘invisible villages’ – to become more visible. Such connections can help form a new conception of local community and also new ways for local councils to respond. Technology offers an opportunity for local government to play its new community leadership role more effectively and work at more local levels.

Link: New Local Government Network: http://www.nlgn.gov.uk