Hit the Road, Jacque

Imagine this: An expectant mother decides she will go to the hospital because it seems that the baby is coming, no time to wait. Her sister carries the bags to the car, helps her sibling get in and they leave for the medical center.

So it was with Rose Mirielle Exumé and her sister Alta Grace Garcon who one Monday afternoon left their home in Deerfield Beach, Florida to travel the 15 miles or so to Broward General.

What is normally a routine journey on I-95 was for this family anything but and Olivier Jean Paul Exumé was born in the fast lane in the back seat of his auntie’s SUV.

For the drivers on the road that day who would have imagined the drama in that car pulling over for no apparent reason? For sure, they were as oblivious to the clamor that accompanied baby Olivier’s birth just as the heaving mother and her panic-stricken sister were oblivious to the travelers speeding by.

Like the information superhighways where data streams in self-contained packets so too do people transport themselves along I-95 absorbed in the bubble of their own journey and experience. Data conveying information about national security and seismic activity share the same beam of light as updates about Uncle Vinnie’s hemorrhoids. No doubt gangsters running drugs and soccer Moms dropping off children were among those whistling by the lurching SUV.

Olivier’s passage was featured on the evening news. The miracle of life was not in of itself important but the circumstances of its coming to be the “human interest” headline.  This is the kind of warm and fuzzy stuff that keeps viewers glued to the box while the commercials run, good for ratings, good for business.

Where the news was most welcomed was in the neighborhood where Rose and her sister lived. Carried by word-of-mouth, the news soon travelled beyond the metropolis and the farthest reaches of I-95 to places where the network is defined by the community of familial ties, shared experiences, language and culture.

Suddenly, Rose was getting messages from “friends” who she never knew she had. It included people she had never heard of but who felt a connection nonetheless. It transpired that through this one and that one they shared mutual friends. People who she had left behind in the Haitian capital Port-au-Prince suddenly popped up living around the corner and up the road. Just as new friendships were being made old ones were being reestablished.

The network was working. It began to take on a tangible form in the gift of diapers, car seats, bibs and bibles. An everyday event, remarkable only for the time and place of it, was the catalyst for a form of “social networking” that transcended self-interest and who-knows-who. Rose and others were personally enriched by the experience.

I-95 is a road that is seemingly always under construction. Today the work is less about the route and more about the ride. Likewise, today the Internet and its proliferation of tools, applications and content is less about the network and more about relevancy for its users.

In both instances, physical and virtual connections are easier and faster to make and navigate. But the things that define and connect communities in the real world and online are changing in ways that make “bringing physical community to online networks” a harder thing to do than at first we might think.

For those of us whose imagination is sparked by the possibility and promise of the Recruiting Roadshow there is much to reflect on in Rose’s story. For example:

When our careering down the road precludes us from being first hand witnesses to the daily miracles of life or when the human experience is trivailized to serve commercial interests; or when we fail to learn the trusted vernacular that makes word-of-mouth credible; or we fail to respond in ways that strengthen our ties to “place,” how will we ever enjoy the gifts of relative strangers who would rather you call them “friend?”

“Bringing physical community to online networks,” imagine that.

Posted by: Amitai Givertz

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  1. 1 080519 Daily Links For May 19, 2008 | johnsumser.com: Recruiting News and Views

    […] Hit the Road, Jacque Ami sharpens the “Bring Physical Community to Online Networks” point […]




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