What is Future Local?

A couple of digital media junkies living on opposite ends of NYC began to exchange their insights on the future of interdisciplinary public discourse and data-driven decision-making. They decided to host an informal IRL salon-style gatherings with friends and other locals who want to partake in such a thought-experiment.

The first gathering took place a few weeks ago, on a rainy day in Sunset Park, in the home of composer and sound artist, Michael J. Schumacher. The theme of the evening centered on the challenges of finding, cultivating, and preserving spaces for organic community building. The conversation was led by curator and cultural liaison, Eva Mayhabel Davis, who shared her experience as the host of El Salón, a community initiative that she has spearheaded for over three years. Eva raised some important questions for the group to ponder; in a city saturated with events and media which are rooted in glamor and exclusivity, how do you make space and create value for something that is intentionally more humble and participatory? How do you find the right people to transform collective consciousness into collective action? How do you expand, let alone stay sustainable, while maintaining integrity in an abstractly diverse society overwhelmed by a disconnect between media-driven discourse and the actual issues that require local civic engagement? How do you organize in a city that seems to be increasingly spreading out and fragmenting?

The guests of the salon shared interesting perspectives on these topics. Everyone had had experience with community organizing around cultural issues (related to both social justice and social innovation) and could relate to common challenges. They provided anecdotes of the solutions they had experimented with, from documenting community initiatives and designing strategies to share the larger vision and intention behind them, to crowdsourcing support (both in volunteer-power and in fundraising) from within the communities they were nurturing. Everyone contributed, and everyone’s point of view added another angle. There was a lot of listening going on, respectful listening. (What could be better?) Drawing on the groups’ shared interest in technology and digital communication, solutions for meaningful online interaction and live supplemental fact-checking for intellectual dinner-party banter began to emerge.

This speaks to the intention of these early convenings of “Future Local.” One of our goals is to merge time-tested practices around event-organizing with forward-thinking practices around digital media documentation and broadcasting. As we (the organizers and early supporters) thoughtfully weave our random social networks together, we intend to build a model for a member-driven collective that can present ideas in the language of digital media, and in exchange receive a valuable human-centered response.

These initial gatherings are meant to combine purpose with pleasure. It’s not business exactly, it’s a space for conversation with a focus; not a party, but not like your life depends on saying the right thing at the right time. So there’s an easiness and a sense of relaxation, but also, in the back of everyone’s mind, that something important might come out of it.

Ultimately, let’s face it, the group acknowledged the value of discussing being able to do what they love doing and earn some money doing it. The payoff for such freedom is to be able to work alongside people who not just tolerate their seditionary tendencies, but who celebrate them. That’s a worthy goal, to enable, to empower more people to work at things they feel will create a better future and, realistically, that means networking, being curious about other people, opening yourself both to opportunity and rejection.

The next Future Local Salon will take place on December 14th in Harlem. The topic of discussion will be “Creating Outside of Categories. ” The conversation will explore the relationship between articulating intention and the process of experimentation. as well as how to find support when one’s ideas and track record doesn’t fit neatly into a box. For more information RSVP at this link.

In the middle of a discussion around documentation, media production, and intentional PR, we convinced the group to pose for this photo. Yes, something is happening.

Originally published at medium.com on November 29, 2018.