• Community: Identity, Trust, Justice, and Civic Pride

last modified June 14, 2013 by tomlowenhaupt

­Cities facilitate human contact to imagine, to meet, to mingle, to ponder, to present,  to govern, to help, to trade, to build... Our mission is to bolster traditional connections by making Internet tools and resources available for civic improvement.

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Community - A place "to build trusting relationships, to achieve consensus around values, to collaborate towards the realization of collective goals."

Michael Gurstein


Identity - "The Internet was built without a way to know who and what you are connecting to. This limits what we can do with it and exposes us to growing dangers. If we do nothing, we will face rapidly proliferating episodes of theft and deception that will cumulatively erode public trust in the Internet."

­Kim Cameron

 Identity Technologies

The xmlgrrl


Social participation is the oil of the digital economy. Today, communication is a mode of social production facilitated by new capitalist imperatives and it has become increasingly difficult to distinguish between play, consumption and production, life and work, labor and non-labor.

Augmented Social Networks  

"The idea behind the ASN is to reestablish the Internet as a platform for trust, as it had originally been. We propose doing this by building trust into the architecture of a next-generation of online community, so that this system of trust can span the entire Internet. As mentioned above, the original architecture of the Net treated identity and trust as issues that people online would sort out themselves. There was no mechanism put in place to assure you of the identity of others. Back then it wasn’t necessary, because the online world was so small, relatively speaking, that people tended to act responsibly in order to protect their reputation." (See TLD Architecture.)

Augmented Social Networks

Kantara Initiative

The Kantara Initiative was formed by leaders of many foundations and associations working on various aspects of digital identity. It is a robust and well-funded focal point for collaboration to address the issues we each share: Interoperability and Compliance Testing, Identity Assurance, Policy and Legal Issues: Privacy, Ownership and Liability, UX and Usability, Cross-Community Coordination and Collaboration, Education and Outreach, Market Research, Use Cases and Requirements, Harmonization, Tool Development.

Connecting.nyc Inc. joined the Kantara Initiative for the breadth of its involvement:  bridging the enterprise, mobile, government and Web communities to provide a clear path for moving interoperable identity systems forward, advancing adoption and meeting marketplace and user needs.


Community - The Graphic

*  We need an animated graphic that shows the role of community in making an economicly and civicly prosperous city.

It should be a graphic that looks like a horizontal platform - imagine 10 planks of wood side by side that would enable someone to stand atop them to make a speech. One plank after another is labeled, e.g., the small business domain names plank, civic names plank, neighborhood names, art names, etc.  And after a bit you have this labeled horizontal platform.

Next, you're looking down at this from a 45 degree angle, and it animates with the flat platform bending into a circle - indicating the community.  




































































Delivering baseline programs - good domain names, identity, an intuitive city, and effective portals - are challenging tasks, but with parallel experiences to draw upon, straightforward. Creating the infrastructure enabling a more organized and equitable society to emerge is far more difficult to realize. But that's our goal.

To do so we need to build upon our traditional face-to-face meetings using social networking features to facilitate connecting people and resources. Connecting.nyc's success will arise from networking New York City's residents, businesses, and institutions to one another and the world. To do this we'll need to create a Meetup-Facebook-LinkedIn-Foursquare-like filtering virtual / real hybrid (that's a mouthful). With residents, businesses, and institutions recognizing the advantages of membership toward a common cause.

Success in this role will place the .nyc TLD in a civic achievement pantheon with the Erie Canal, our reservoirs, street grid, libraries, subways, and parks.

 Identity + Trust + Community + Justice = Civic Pride

So called Web 2.0 applications enable a more collaborative Internet and facilitates weaving networking tools like blogs, cell phones, FOAF, GIS, GPS, mashup, peer-to-peer, RSS, and wikis to better share and create locally. Here we explore how these technologies can complement our traditional governance processes in the areas of identity, trust, community, justice, and civic pride.


The Internet is plagued by engineering design faults that enable SPAM, viruses, phishing, etc. These faults diminish the Net's ability to provide identity and trust.

At the level of the individual, identity and trust are prerequisites for collaboration and community betterment. And the Net facilitates group communication more readily than inter-group, diminishing its utility to address local needs.

Psychologists use "identity" to describe personal identity, or the idiosyncratic things that make a person unique. Sociologists use "social identity" to describe group membership. In community governance "identity" is used in this later sense while incorporating the trust that comes with eye-to-eye familiarity with an individual. On the internet, identity and trust are more difficult to discern. (Our Security and Privacy page examines these problems.) Efforts like OpenID are working to bridge the internet's identity and trust gap. But first, let's take a look at identity from a more tradition public policy perspective. (The following borrows heavily from Identity Politics by Rick Muir.)

From a public policy perspective, identity is tied in with social cohesion. There are three main approaches to improving social cohesion, all of which play a distinctive role.

  • First is legislation. The most critical element here is the anti-discrimination and equalities legislation that outlaws discrimination on grounds of religion, race, sexuality, gender, disability and age. Achieving legal equity and driving out discrimination and prejudice are fundamental prerequisites for social cohesion.
  • Second is economic and social policy. Socio-economic inequalities in New York City are stark and exist along ethnic, racial, and class lines. A society cannot be at ease with itself with such inequalities. Social disadvantage also creates an environment in which low-income families are forced to compete for scarce resources, such as jobs, childcare, and affordable housing. Material scarcity and perceptions of unfairness in how such scarce goods are distributed play an important role in generating an atmosphere of hostility towards asylum seekers and migrants more generally. The hard social democratic graft of tackling disadvantage and promoting equal life chances is therefore a fundamental precondition of cohesion.
  • The third approach to tackling identity and social cohesion relates to cultural change. People’s relations with one another are affected by the beliefs and practices through which they understand themselves and organize their lives. There are three main approaches to develop cohesion through cultural change: shared action, shared values, and shared identity.

The credibility of the messenger is critical if people are to buy into a shared identity. As things stand, politicians are probably the least trusted messengers we have. Under these circumstances, how do we build identity?

  • First, interaction between citizens is in itself a basic building block for an inclusive civic identity. As contact theory has shown, in order for people to identify with citizens from a different background to their own, meaningful contact across cultural boundaries is important.
  • Second, given the importance of symbols and narratives in identity formation, we need to reassess the way we represents identity. If we are to construct a genuinely inclusive and shared identity, symbols need to reflect the multicultural nature of our society. This means, for example, addressing the role of community boards and local civic organizations. The kind of public monuments we put up, the figures we commemorate and events we celebrate should also reflect the culturally diverse heritage of our great city.
  • Third, we need to find new sources of collective identity that all New Yorkers can share. Recent focus group work by ippr found that there is a tendency among white participants to reach for exclusive sources of national identity when asked what they would like to celebrate. If we are to avoid exclusive conceptions, we need to find sources of identity that all New Yorkers will find appealing. Here are a few possibilities.
  • First is New York's democratic and humanitarian heritage. Almost everyone in our society values democracy. It is one of the things that provides an effective way of marrying our two desirable goals of diversity and cohesion. Because it provides the space in which our various different identities can flourish, democracy is intimately connected with the celebration of cultural diversity. In appealing to democracy as a basis for shared identity, we would be fostering pride in the framework that makes cultural pluralism possible. And by integrating the tools of the Internet with traditional democratic traditions we will connect the atomic and subatomic.
  • A second progressive source of identity would be diversity and multi-culturalism. For example, in New York's Olympic bid, our cultural, ethnic and racial diversity was a major source of pride and clearly central to the bid. We might present our identification with humanity as a whole, rather than with the nation. A popularly held global cosmopolitan identity seems a natural course of progression in the UN headquarters city.
  • A third source of shared identity is culture in the narrower sense of the word: music, media, the visual arts, and drama. Culture is our business. And artists themselves are putting on new forms of public art specifically aimed at engaging large audiences, such as, in 2005, the Gates Project in Central Park.
  • Finally, there is our built heritage. New York City's landmark areas, its skyscrapers, parks, and entertainment venues are world class.

Shared identity has the potential to make a valuable contribution to social cohesion through its ability to foster affective ties between potentially quite large numbers of people. It can thus help us to meet people’s desire for a shared sense of belonging, something that other approaches to cohesion lack.

People will find their own way of relating to their communities, the city, and nation and some will resist identifying with these spheres altogether – this is inevitable. But if we wishe to foster cohesion in the public interest, we can provide the framework that makes shared identification among residents possible. Rather than approaching identity in a top-down fashion that would almost inevitably backfire, we should see its role as setting the structural framework that makes it more likely that shared identities will develop.

While the government should ensure that the way our schools operate, our communities function and housing developments are planned
encourage people to mix with others from different backgrounds to their own, we shoulkd strive to create an online environment that facilitates parallel developments. We should create interaction-based initiatives to break down barriers between the groups. We should ensure that our symbols, rituals and the civic calendar reflects our cultural diversity and include culturally diverse narratives that make up community history. We should seek out new sources of identity around which residents of all backgrounds can share some common ground.

Identity Links


Trust is the oil that makes both social and commercial relationships run more smoothly. Our focus here is on the oils that benefit community and civic relationships. (For information on the .nyc TLD's role in facilitating commercial trust, see the Economic Development page.)

Without trusted relationships, civil society comes undone. A key map to the importance and role of trust to civil society was presented in the Augmented Social Network (ASN) paper written in 2003 by Ken Jordan, Jan Hauser, and Steven Foster. In ASN, they wrote:

While the ASN paper had an emphasis on global online world, our focus is on a limited geographic entity. Our trust must bridge the digital and atomic worlds of real people and traditional processes.

Trust Links


Inventing new technology is not essential to improve community and civic communication. For example, a simple cooperative directory of civic groups and calendar of activities will facilitate their operation. One goal of .nyc is to provide short, descriptive, memorable names for local community and civic organizations and to facilitate their use. Perhaps, with its tight geographical space, as we develop networking tools, we'll discover that we live in a small city with four or three degrees of separation.


The Free Dictionary provides the following definitions for justice:
  1. The quality of being just; fairness.
  2. The principle of moral rightness; equity.
  3. Conformity to moral rightness in action or attitude; righteousness.
  4. The upholding of what is just, especially fair treatment and due reward in accordance with honor, standards, or law.
  5. Law The administration and procedure of law.
  6. Conformity to truth, fact, or sound reason: The overcharged customer was angry, and with justice.

    When we have identity, trust, community, and justice, we have all the reasons in the world to have -

    Civic Pride

    According to the Free Dictionary, pride, has good and bad sides. Here are the main definitions:
    • A sense of one's own proper dignity or value; self-respect.
    • Pleasure or satisfaction taken in an achievement, possession, or association: parental pride.
    • Arrogant or disdainful conduct or treatment; haughtiness.

    The broad goal of .nyc is to enable residents to have pleasure and satisfaction in civic achievement without haughtiness. As we better communicate, as we create a just society, we can begin to feel civic pride.

    Civic Networks

    We envision social networks providing key building blocks for the  city's future well being. With adequate networks we may no longer be a city ruled by calamity: Reporter - "What's our next priority?" Official, "Let me find out what's collapsed and I'll get back to you."

    The Voter Project offers an opportunity for developing a civic network.

    Other Benefits


    • Privacy - A key concern is privacy. Cities were traditionally a place where people could get lost in the crowd. But privacy is difficult to protect as cameras and blogs and cell phones and search and mining and photosynth and GIS merge. Take a look at the history and scope of the issue of global privacy as interpreted by Peter Fleischer: Leadership comes from Europe and its experiences in WW 2. With the U.S. understandably anxious aaro the 9/11 disaster; there's little leadership from the government. But any solution must be global in nature.
    • It was reported in the Boston Globe that in Robert Putnam's latest work (not yet formally released in the U.S.) indicates that mixed-immigrant communities exhibit a lesser degree of civic cooperation than more homogeneous communities. Perhaps game theory might shed some light on how best to approach a situation of this sort. Exercises in no-zero sum situations might be worthwhile explorations. ( See Robert Putnam.)

    Resource Links

    Here are a few resources and examples of Web2.0 technologies under development or as applied elsewhere.

    • Conference Report -  Proceedings of the International Conference for E-Democracy and Open Government, May 2011.
    • Augmented Social Network - A proposal for an online community that would strengthen the collaborative nature of the Internet, enhancing its ability to act as a public commons that engages citizens in civil society.
    • BeyondVoting - The BeyondVoting Wiki reviews a series of projects that seek better local governance, many of which are network based. (This site needs some care.)
    • Build 1 - "Can I give you a hand with that neighbor?" is the essence of community life. A program like Build 1 can provide a means for neighbors to connect and collaborate.
    • Cambrian House - This site shows how community cooperation on software evaluation and development might be applied on .nyc applications. Perhaps this might provide some guidance on general decision making.
    • Information Markets - New decision making processes are developing that induce people to research and share information on topics through economic investment. It's a "put your money where your mouth is" type of market that might be dubbed "gambling for the good."
    • Mashmaps - Maps are a vital part of local community and a plethora of tools are evolving around Google's API. How can we incorporate tools like this into meeting local needs?
    • Predictive Algorithms - The NetFlix Prize seeks to improve the accuracy of predictions about future movie preferences based on their customers movie viewing experiences. Improve the predicting algorithm by 10% and you win. Winning the Netflix Prize improves Netflix's ability to connect people to the movies they like. Perhaps there's a lesson here for local policy and decision makers. (See The .nyc Prize for a first stab at a local prize.)
    • Part of the Solution - This project envisions a means for local residents to organize themselves to address community needs. Connected with a Build 1 and Cambrian House, it might provide a means for addressing local issues locally.
    • The Semantic Web - A foundation tool for many of these projects is being developed by Tim Berners-Lee, the key developer of the Web.

    Features like these, linked through a planned and managed .nyc TLD, will provide a logical ganglion for resident-to-resident networking.

    Key .nyc Pages