This is what's next
Artistic Director, Trinity Repertory Company
It's no surprise to any Rhode Islander, indeed, to any American, that we've witnessed a profound shift in our local communities in the last several decades. Patterns of behavior, long standing and, even, cherished, have shifted in unpredictable ways. We don't shop like we used to, we don't worship like we used to, we don't even have elections like we used to... in short, there has been a seismic change in how we behave.
As a result, we feel a fracturing of community, a sense of isolation and loss. One school of thought suggests that our reliance on virtual communities has impacted our sense of belonging in the literal commonwealth in which we live. The growing online presence of individuals has lessened our identity as citizens. The question arises, how can our local communities survive, let alone flourish, in this brave, new, virtual world?
I believe that we are due for a course correction of sorts. The virtual world will become more transactional, more commercial, less identity based as we understand its best application and use. In the next decade, I feel that we will see a turn toward our local communities, toward civic engagement and civic duty, and especially toward liveness in events and experiences.
We see examples of this everywhere in Rhode Island. We watch young people, tired of the isolation of the internet, flocking to skate parks, live music, and outdoor festivals. We see a massive uptick in the popularity of farmers' markets, driven not by a sense of commercial value (you can get everything at such markets at a grocery store or online), but because of a sense of community that they engender. People are looking for identity in these kinds of live, local events, and that hunger for such things will only increase in the coming years.
I am certain that if we invest in making "local" and "live" what is next in our community, we will be on the leading edge in the 21st century. And I take great heart in the possibility that provides for who we can become as citizens.