Top Secret Durham Neighborhood Listserv Map
This post is about my top secret project that I’ve been working on for a few weekends. It was partly inspired by an eight year-old girl who went missing about a block from my house on January 7th. It was also inspired by my friend Gwen McCarter’s blog post about boldness that she published two days prior:
If there’s one sure thing about boldness, it’s that no one will know you’re a bold thinker if you aren’t a bold actor, too. To illustrate the point, we need only think about noise. Chatter. A veritable din. We live in a society where more people are free to voice their opinions than ever, and everyone with Internet access also has a soapbox within reach. In many ways, this democratization via technology is empowering. And as Malcolm Gladwell wrote last October, it’s not our imagination that social media outlets such as Facebook, Twitter, and various blogging platforms are “making it easier for the powerless to collaborate.”
But Gladwell also warns against mistaking online activity for real-world action. The digital setting is often confusing because boldness online can feel both satisfying and effortlessly productive. If we want use the example of activism, social movements that grow online can amass a follower base of millions. All the same, the palpable impact of those virtual efforts can be an entirely different story. Gladwell happens to cite the Save Darfur Coalition’s Facebook page as one place where participation is high but commitment and investment are relatively low (he puts group membership at nearly 1.3 million and the average donation at 9 cents). But the same could be said of a number of other initiatives — social media-based or otherwise — that don’t or can’t place enough emphasis on backing their bold online campaigns up with tangible follow-through.
So, for most everyone, it wouldn’t hurt to spend a little more time in action. At the same time, a single bold act cannot be your end game; it needs to be well conceived as part of a larger strategy, supported by other, more sustained initiatives.
As for the missing girl, I got the following message from an adjacent neighborhood listserv I happened to be a member of:
Hi, Neighbors. A woman who lives down the street just came to our door asking if we saw a little girl get off the bus stop near our house (corner of Shawnee and Lynch). Unfortunately, we didn’t see anything, but I told her I would send out an e-mail to the listserve to see if anyone else had information or had seen her (or anything suspicious that may be related) throughout the neighborhood this afternoon/evening. They are looking for a little girl who is 8 years old. She is African American and was last seen wearing black pants, a black shirt with purple underneath and has 2 ponytails. She said if anyone saw anything they should call the police.
Now despite being about 50 yards away from the neighborhood’s northern border, the author of this email didn’t know to send her message to Duke Park, (although to her credit, she did make sure the police were involved). Ideally, when something happens one road over, both listservs should be communicative with each other due to significant membership overlap. Obviously, not everyone is a member of more than one listserv, despite proximity. In many instances, this is OK since other members are gregarious and cross-post between adjacent hoods and Partners Against Crime (PAC) lists when appropriate.
The little girl was found at a neighbor’s house about 50 minutes after the original post. Like magic, two distinct ad hoc search parties sprang into action and someone found the girl at a neighbor’s house.
This was a huge success story, but had the child gone missing along any other neighborhood border, I wouldn’t have known who to contact. So, that day, out of frustration, I started working on a map which is meant to facilitate communication between adjacent listservs in emergency and crime-related scenarios.
Currently it features 35 neighborhoods with active listservs and 14 neighborhoods that don’t have listservs (but should). Each border was meticulously hand-drawn, yet they’re probably wholly inaccurate.
So click the image above to be taken to the map. If you’re not a member of your neighborhood’s listserv, you should join it. Today. The relevant links are embedded within each neighborhood’s shape. If your neighborhood doesn’t yet have a listserv, why not follow Gwen’s advice? Be bold. Take action. Create one.
And shoot me an email when you do, so I can update
my our map.
*Update – The map now includes 57 outlines of active neighborhood listservs. The color of these outlines also correlate with which police district they are associated with.