ESWoW Newsletter - August 9, 2012
To the members and friends of ESWoW:
Some seven years ago, ESWoW was begun with the hope of building an on-line community of Ethical Culture participants which would have an organization and a structure patterned after those of the traditional Ethical Culture Societies that exist around the country. It was hoped that this new Society would serve members who reside outside the range of an existing, physical, Ethical Society, but would nevertheless offer comparable services - - over long distances to be sure, but the traditional format was our guide.
Obviously, we all had a lot to learn about how an on-line venue has strengths and weaknesses that are unique to its own medium. In judging it by the same standards of the traditional Societies, those with street addresses and pot luck dinners, some people were too critical of its uneven growth; while at the same time, some people were unappreciative of the many unique possibilities that the new format allowed.
A lot was learned over the last seven years and now we are undertaking a major overhaul of the ESWoW structure in order to capture these new capabilities. Presently we are in the design phase and I would like to share with you some of the plans we would like to pursue. I would also like to hear from those of you who have followed ESWoW to gather your suggestions as to how its functionality can be improved.
The biggest change will be to bring ESWoW into the larger Ethical Culture community by making its website a component of a new central website for the American Ethical Union (AEU), the national federation of Ethical Culture Societies. This will mean that the news, the resources and the interconnections of the entire Ethical Culture movement will be right at hand. And, at the same time, ESWoW participants are to have their own space to which they can revert. There, ESWoW will have its own content with blogs, essays and video which will be both original and drawn from the output of the other Societies. This can serve not only as a portal for ESWoW participants to tap into the entire creative world of Ethical Culture, but it would encourage members of other Societies to use it as well and benefit from the product of other Societies around the country which they could otherwise not visit.
But more than just offering content, it is intended that the new format will encourage discussion and active cross communication among the ESWoW participants themselves. Ethical Culture is not a lecture series - - it was always founded on an active community of like-minded people who share their thoughts, creativity and energy in real time. So, there is no reason why the telephone conference calls cannot continue. As for the website itself, there are different ways by which discussion can be encouraged. How to best enable this interchange is the technical challenge we want to meet. For this, I would like your contributions on what kind of format would best enable the interchanges in which you would like to participate.
There are models, of course, from other venues. Many publications offer room for feedback in the form of comments addressed to a particular article and this sometimes generates much cross commentary, as readers respond to each others’ comments. This results in a thread that emerges out of a single essay and is, in principle, limited to that topic. Other models have had lists of topic headings and people were invited to start a thread by posting a note under the topic heading. Facebook, on the other hand, allows participants to post a note which is open and visible to all who are friends or, as relevant to us, members. People can add to that posting. Some chat rooms offer the opportunity for side-bar conversations.
Issues to be seriously considered would naturally include security from mischief-makers as are found in any open forum and protecting the confidentiality of the participants’ email addresses. In addition, one must consider the cost and on-going administrative burden of monitoring this activity.
Please write to me to say how you would like to use the site and how important you feel it would be to incorporate cross communication between members and participants on the site itself. I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I look forward to a new and revitalized web presence for ESWoW and I hope you will stay engaged in its development. For over 135 years Ethical Culture has sought to promote ethics as the central focus of our lives and the development of ethical, caring and creative community as our central goal. ESWoW is our experiment in creating ethical community in a new and dynamic “virtual” forum. I hope you can be with us as we build it.
President, American Ethical Union