PATCHWORK NATION -- April 5, 2010 at 11:40 AM EDT
Patchwork Nation: Using Technology to Change the World
Ask the same question to people in Patchwork Nation's 12 community types and you will likely find very different answers.
That is just what a group of journalism students from Syracuse University did last summer. The students, working on project called "The Young and the Wireless" traveled to most of Patchwork Nation's 12 communities to ask a short, immeasurably complex question: How would you use technology to the change the world?
A lot of the answers they got, beyond befuddled "ummms" and "ahhhs," were half-jokes about time machines and robot aides. But there were also some responses that shed light on the stark differences in the day-to-day realities of the Patchwork communities.
'Campus and Careers': Go Green
That stands to reason. Students there told us, repeatedly that, in a city laden with causes, "Thou shalt be green" is the primary commandment. And as far as using technology for education, that's going to be a high priority in any college town.
'Military Bastion': Cut Foreign Oil
In Hopkinsville, Ky., a "Military Bastion" near Fort Campbell, reliance on foreign oil and entanglements in the affairs of foreign countries play a significant role in everyday life - both for families that see loved ones deployed and businesses who want breadwinners on post.
The idea of needing less oil from overseas turned up in more than one response. "More reliance on the energy sources around us," one interviewee said.
'Minority Central': Bridge Racial Gaps
In Baton Rouge, La., a "Minority Central" community, poverty is an enormous issue, particularly among African-Americans living on the north side of a town sharply divided along racial lines. African-American families earn about $50,000 less annually than their white counterparts.
One man suggested that technology could "try to improve on the way that the United States takes care of the homeless and the people that need to eat."
A group of students hoped that technology could be the force behind a monorail that connected the black and white neighborhoods in the city.
'Immigrant Nation': Help Without Borders
Near El Mirage, Ariz., an "Immigration Nation" where many speak English as a second language, many of the people chuckled about using stem cells to help with body building. But one woman, speaking in Spanish, said technology could remake the world if we were "able to give someone in a third-world country the same technology we have here, for free."
That focus on the world outside the United States has a special meaning in places like the suburbs of Phoenix, where many people still have regular contact with people living south of the U.S. border.
'Evangelical Epicenters': Spread the Good Word
Near Nixa, Mo., a socially conservative "Evangelical Epicenter" where people proudly proclaim they live in the "buckle of the Bible belt,"one woman told the crew technology had a clear purpose: "Use it to share the gospel and spread the good news."
What is technology for? What should it be for? The answer is different depending on where it is asked. But talk to enough people and the trends and differences begin to become apparent.
As one interviewee in Hopkinsville put it: "Rebuild it with technology? That's what we're doing now, aren't we?"
Yes, in many different directions.
This entry is cross-posted from the Christian Science Monitor's Patchwork Nation site.