The fable of the tree is in fact a story of Packe Street Park in St Albans. In an article in the St Albans community paper STANN, it was stated:
“this amazing achievement will be remembered by St Albans people as a sign that they have again become an identifiable community – a community with enough hope and fortitude to dare to try and change things for the better.”
And that this success brings
“a happy conclusion a process of co-operation and support between local neighbours, friends and families, SARA, (the residents group,) the Community Board and City Council and Christchurch itself.”
Community networking was possible because of accessible communications and media technology
People often think of technology as being computers in a room. However, Spanish sociologist Manuel Castells notes that “as the Internet becomes a universal tool of interactive communication” we are shifting “from computer-centered technologies to network-diffused technologies” Castells, M, Materials for an exploratory theory of the network society. British Journal of Sociology, 51(1), 5-24
Such academic framing provides context for the St Albans communication’s-based projects which were operating at the time. John Wardle, the main architect of inclusive information communication and technology (ICT) projects in St Albans said of the community paper, “its purpose is communication.” And of the modem:
Many have argued that modems with connections to the Internet actually isolate people in their households…. I have had this argument and discussion many times that modems are going to make people stay in their houses, but the problem started long before computers…. The modem will only really get people talking to each other. Everyone got really excited about the real benefit of talking over thousands of miles but that isn’t the real benefit. The real benefit is talking over the yard by people who are isolated in their own homes (from interview with Hazel Ashton 1997).
Cartoon by Chris Watkins 1996, commissioned for InfoLink and published in St Albans Neighbourhood News (STANN) February 1996
That was then. Is anyone using the technologies in this kind of way now?