Accelerating My Social Media Learning Curve

One of my obsessions over the last several years has been seeking ways to maximize the impact of my passions, theories and concepts to create meaningful work. I have always been one to read the books of design thought leaders in efforts to keep on the front of the curve.  In the past 2 years,  this has drawn me into an evermore connected system of blogs, tweets, and photo services,  Seeing how well this information flowed and constantly connected me to new information sources, I took my first steps into the New Media.  This has been daunting to say the least but I think I am getting a handle on it.

I just read New Media for Designers + Builders  (www.nm4db.com.) It’s a new book from Steve Mouzon, architect and author of one of my favorites: The Original Green: Unlocking the Mystery of True Sustainability.  This book breaks from Mouzon’s eclectic discussions of design philosophy and dives directly into the tools we design professionals need to be remarkable in today’s world of new media.  We are deluged with “how to” books on marketing, but to say this is about marketing would not do this work justice.  This is much more a users manual for creative folk like myself that understand their process but are seeking a new perspective on communication and making meaningful impact.

“If you are willing to remake yourself, instead of just your marketing, then these principles can be used to accomplish remarkable things for your business.”

The overriding theme is that the mindset of how we do business must change for design professionals such as architects, planners, and builders.  I would include many more knowledge and creativity based professions as falling into this category; making the information in the book relevant to a much wider audience. The fact is that the environment in which we work has changed, we simply must decide if we will individually adapt to be relevant in this environment.

Unlike many books I have read on how to tap into social media, New Media For Designers + Builders gives a pertinent point of view in a context I understand. Being written from the perspective of a design professional, it speaks directly to real world strategies and applications in my field.   It would also apply to any ideas base organization looking to be effective in communicating their message and being relevant in the marketplace.

Reading this book through to the end takes a tremendous amount of discipline.  I could hardly go a page without finding pertinent information that I could utilize.  The temptation to drill down deep into a subject before finishing the entire book was mighty. This was my first experience with an electronic book so highly interlinked.  The links intuitively pull you deeper into each strategy.  In my case, I spent a day and a half down the blogging rabbit hole to unpack ways to  improve my own blog before moving on to the rest of the book.  Being a digital format book, every strategy, reference, or example is instantly accessible with examples and tips.

As easy as it is to drill for specifics, the real value for me was a guide into a framework or philosophy for the use of all these tools.  Exploring the “Age of the Idea” takes some of the concepts touched on by other forward thinkers such as Seth Godin and focuses them on the design and building professions. I can now see how to take my dabbling with my blog and twitter into a strategy to drive real business.

Having finished reading the book, my time with the book has just begun.  Each media node has a manual that explains how to start, refine and connect the system. I used to be concerned that putting my ideas out for others to see would be the worst possible business decisions. That is an old way of thinking.  I agree with Mouzon’s concepts that “patience, generosity, and connectedness” are valid business virtues for our new economy. With the enormous amount of energy we spend creating our passions, it is a shame if our platforms and practices for communication almost guarantee your voice not being heard.  This book is a manual for taking ideas to the audience where the ideas resonate.  Our business environment has changed, only we can decide how to adapt.  I will be using this book daily as I refine how my message can best be communicated.

I recommend New Media For Designers + Builders to anyone who has considered using the new medias to drive ideas.  In my case, I have been attempting to use social media for several months never realizing that each media (node) can feed the others, multiplying the content and connectivity drastically.  Another great aspect of the book for those of us into socio-spatial design, is a glimpse into the new media systems of some of the top thought leaders in our industry.  I found many ongoing resources that really exemplify generosity as a business virtue.

You can find the book at www.nm4db.com.   Steve Mouzon is an architect, urbanist, author, blogger, and photographer from Miami. He founded the New Urban Guild, which helped foster the Katrina Cottages movement. The Guild hosts Project:SmartDwelling, which works to redefine the house to be much smaller and more sustainable. Steve founded and is a board member of the Guild Foundation; it hosts the Original Green initiative. Steve speaks regularly across the US and abroad on sustainability issues. He blogs on the Original Green Blog and Useful Stuff. He also posts to the Original Green Twitter stream. While looking at Steve’s stuff be sure to explore The Original Green website at www.originalgreen.org.

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Changing Values Creating SC Tourism Opportunities

ImageI just got back from listening to SC Governor Nikki Haley, SCPRT Head Duane Parrish and Secretary of Commerce Bobby Hitt talk about where tourism and economic development are going in SC and I feel encouraged that these folks get it.  They understand that quality of place is essential in building sustainable livable communities that benefit from a strong tourism and traditional economies.  While they will continue to successfully recruit and retain the major economic drivers, they are also focusing on the undiscovered places in SC and how these small towns and unincorporated rural communities can also have tourism as an important economic driver. To take advantage of these opportunities, we must educate our local officials and business communities to understand how hospitality, tourism product development, traditional economic development and quality urban/rural planning design must be done in collaboration to build quality of place.

First we need to understand that we are now faced with creating and recreating destination communities to meet a new set of values that have rapidly shifted from the pre-recession model.  Perhaps it was the financial reality check that accelerated the already growing shift in values into the mainstream.  Many have shifted from seeking a tourist experience to wanting to feel belonging and experience self discovery when traveling.

In 2009, Kurt Anderson began the conversation about a great reset in American values.  He and others speak of a “new frugality” that has resulted from values being shifted away from a consumption-based mentality. Conspicuous consumption has lost favor as a value proposition and is being replaced with a value for simpler honest and authentic experience.  This includes a shift away from credit-based lifestyle, which may slow our traditional metrics for economic growth but those metrics do not clearly recognize the vitality that can come from formally marginalized places being rediscovered and appreciated.  It doesn’t directly show the benefit of the local shops, restaurants, cafes and services being supported by a shift from corporate destination tourism to destination community based tourism patterns.

When we speak of a value shift, it begs the question “from what.”  My favorite vulnerability expert, Dr. Brene Brown (brenebrown.com,) speaks of moving away from a culture where being preoccupied, over scheduled and over connected has become a status symbol and into a state of living wholeheartedly. Technological advances allowing industrialization and automation of tasks that formally were part of basic home economics has created a lifestyle free from much preindustrial “drudgery” but it has also a disconnected us from the basic human processes of thousands of years.  Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, described this as our losing the “craft of being a creature. “

In the past, many tourist experiences were designed to allow us escape into artificial environments. Destination communities now are asked to bring us into a different rhythm, show as another lifestyle point of view or seek to connect us to nature and the basic systems of being human. The common denominator in this value shift for a more authentic experience is a desire for greater understanding, physical and spiritual growth and renewal. For some this may be a place for adventure, meditation, or learning.  In looking at how to grow tourism in your community, understand it is not trying to be a Myrtle Beach, Hilton Head or Greenville. You are not trying to attract everyone, you want those visitors and new residents that appreciate the authentic culture of your community and only in numbers that allow you to keep a livable community with local prosperity.  Be who you are.

David Twiggs