This is the way I’m thinking about it. The Little boxes were my great-grandparents and some of my grandparents’ generation. You “stayed with your own kind”. My Grandparents’ generation started to break away from that. Great-Aunt Ruthie traveled the world working for Standard Oil as a single woman and later as a divorced woman.
Nanna and Pop crossed a even larger abyss. They eloped and got married and in doing so crossed a huge divided between families. Nanna was Protestant of Scottish heritage and Pop was an Irish Catholic. They were disowned by their families for a period of time. Mom and several of her siblings traveled long distances from home and married outsiders completely unknown to their families. They kept in touch by letters and phones.
My cousins span the globe. Instead of waiting hours to get a long distance line to call on holidays, we IM, text, and e-mail daily. My sister’s children can know their second cousins via on line pictures, videos, web cams and skype, instead of from 2 weeks every 4 years.
I also meet people on line from places and cultures around the world. When I first started teaching, I amazed both students and some co-workers by saying “I don’t know the answer let me e-mail so and so in another country and ask”. The next day I would often come in with not only an answer, but photographs and a personal story that made the answer relevant.
I disagree with the idea that “Such privatization may be responsible for the lack of informal help given to strangers in public spaces.”
The other day I was leaving the Galleria. A woman was lost trying to find the nearest Walgreens. I don’t live in the area, and rarely shop there because of the mark up. I had no idea where a Walgreens was located. I pulled my GPS out of my backpack, waited a couple of moments while it found were we were, asked for the nearest Walgreens, and was able to give her turn by turn directions.
I was reminded of a book by David Weale that I read. In it he talked about “the break”. The night the local storyteller showed up at someone’s house and found he had been replaced by the radio. Maybe the net and connectivity is bringing us full circle. I know there are people who decry fan fiction because it is not original the ideas are stolen. Homer didn’t have a copyright on the Greek and Roman Gods – yes it is his work that survives down to us. Still there were thousands of storyteller spinning tells of the gods. Some good some terrible but they were telling stories.
People are telling their stories to receptive audiences. Whether it is the latest “Bad Neighbor” story told with humor on a Etiquette Forum, a phantom traveler tale on a ghost site, or the latest fan fiction on a Supernatural fan site – people are telling stories. Far from lost the art is thriving.