I live in New York City, a place with seemingly endless cultural opportunities. The problem is that the majority of these cultural experiences are designed to bring me closer to people I showed up with—an activity sociologists call “social bonding.”
That’s all well and good for me, but it’s not going to make my city more livable, more humane, and more just.
Inspired by Nina Simon’s TED Talk, I would argue that what my community needs, and what communities across this divided country need, is more opportunities to connect with people across difference—what sociologists call “social bridging.”
Moreover, I would argue that arts and culture organizations are uniquely poised to become a platform for social bridging in our communities, and that it’s essential that they do so or risk irrelevancy.
Why is social bridging so important?
Our country is more politically, economically, and generationally divided than ever. Culture has been parsed into endless niches—with the rise of Facebook and Twitter, we’ve all become Creative Directors of our own brand, with our own set of followers.
In this new era of divisiveness and splintered identity, it’s essential that we create spaces where people can connect with others whose experiences are substantially different from our own. Read the rest of this entry »