16 June 2008

Youth, Google Earth, GIS, Street Committees, Study Circles, and more

How are Street Committees to be organised? Street committees are public structures and do not belong to any party, but organising is still organising. The generic name “Street Committee” includes Block and Village Committees, and perhaps more varieties than that, as we shall see.

This Youth Day CU post, marking the Anniversary of the organised township youth uprisings that started in Soweto 32 years ago, is the beginning of an investigation into the technical means that can assist young people to conceptualise, and then to execute, a systematic approach to organising Street Committees. The work of organising the people must once again largely fall upon young shoulders.

To the title above this post we could add “Know Your Neighbourhood”, “Door To Door”, Red October Campaign, Imvuselelo Campaign, Voter Registration Campaign, 2009 Election Campaign, and all kinds of public things, not excluding business, that involve people as they are found, socially organised on the ground.

It helps to see this social organisation in various ways, including in the “plan” view, meaning the vertical view, as if from an eye in the sky. The first document linked below is a view of a part of Johannesburg where one of the Communist University’s participants lives. It is taken from the Johannesburg Metro’s free “GIS” map service which is at
http://eservices.joburg.org.za/joburg/eservices/#clkCntrl (or go to the “Joburg” site and click “e-Services”).

The GIS online image can be zoomed down to the level of individual stands and it shows street names and stand numbers, as well as political ward boundaries and many other things besides. This example has been scaled and sized for demonstration purposes. A bigger scale would show more detail.

The second linked document is made from images generated by Google Earth, a free service that you can get by first downloading free software from
http://earth.google.com/. It is much more spectacular than the GIS map. It shows buildings, trees, sports fields, the true extent of the roads, paved and unpaved, and many other interesting things. It shows the inequality of South African society. It is sharp from a height of 2 kilometres or more (try zooming the image in Word) but gets grainy when you magnify it too much. It does not show street names, stand numbers, and political boundaries.

With these two kinds of imaging, one can start to literally “plan” possible street committee territories. Immediately, different possibilities are visible. One can imagine centring a “street committee” on a cafĂ©, community hall, crossroads or open space, to give just a few examples.

The third linked document is a simple Excel spreadsheet (which can be modified, and which is sortable by any category of data) for listing the details of the residents in a chosen area for a “street committee. (All these documents will be made downloadable from the linked web pages, or if you want,
by e-mail.)

If you have people’s cell numbers in a locality you can SMS them all at once when there is an event, or if a baby is born, or if somebody is in distress, or to invite them to “umrabulo”. Likewise with e-mail. Communication, education and organisation are inseparable. They make the fabric of the kind of popular socialisation that can break free of the imposed social framework that oppresses the people.

The last two items are Jacob Zuma’s remarks today about Joe Gqabi, which are relevant to the above, as you will see if you read it; and the current reading from Karl Marx, which we may discuss next Monday, unless there is a new Umsebenzi Online by that time. There being no available image of the great Joe Gqabi, the ANC logo must stand for him.

Click on these links:

Johannesburg Ward 81, River Park and LE Extension, Jhb Metro GIS map (1 page)

Johannesburg Ward 81, River Park and LE Extension, Google Earth image (1 page)

Draft Street Committee contact list form (Excel Spreadsheet)

Remarks at renaming of a region after Joe Gqabi, ANC President (1153 words)

Capital Volume 1, Chapter 10, The Working Day, parts 5 to 7, Karl Marx, 1867 (11734 words)


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