Can Public Media use Social Software to help with complex problems such as the Mortgage Crisis?

How would you feel today, if you stood to lose your house and all around you the media were labeling you as stupid and deserving of being put on the street?

How would you feel if you were struggling to save your house, but all around you those  who said that they were there to help you, were really just jackals waiting to prey on your carcass?

How would you feel if you have lots of what you thought was equity in your house, if 20% of the houses in your community were being sold at auction for a few thousand dollars?

What kind of city or place will you live in if say 20% of the people there have learned that they have been fooled, betrayed and abandoned by their society?

This is a graph of how the SARS epidemic spread. This is how all social epidemics spread. This is the risk before us!

I think that if lots of people feel this way that there is going to be hell to pay. For I think that the real threat of the subprime crisis is social.

The science behind the Tipping Point tells us that if there is momentum and and if the “Chasm” of about 15% is crossed the system Tips. If 15-20% of the people in your city feel that they have no support or hope, then there is a good chance that your city will Tip.I am saying that if you think that you are OK while large swathes of your city become ghost towns – watch out for the Zombies and watch out for your tax base, your own equity, crime and your way of life.

I am not saying that the “Cure” is to save every person’s house. I am saying that if people affected cannot get Trusted help and in the end trusted support, they will not only lose their house but get very angry. This is when the pitchforks and torches come into town.

So why am I posting this in a blog where the focus is Social Media? Because at its core the subprime mortgage problem is no longer merely financial nor is it confined to a few people. It is now becoming a social problem – it is largely now about isolation, abandonment and and soon it will be about betrayal.

People who are affected directly find it exceptionally difficult to find help that they can trust. People who are directly affected are often in shock too and hence are shut down and will not trust official help – after all it was the system that told them that borrowing was going to be OK. People who are directly affected feel shame and feel shamed. Many must feel like many returning vets from Vietnam. The are being told that the subprime crisis is all their fault. The commercial media are telling them that we do not care about them.

Many others are smug. I am OK. This is not about about me. My nice middle class or upper class area is safe. But of course it’s not and nor will it be as the ripple spreads

Others see the business opportunity. Facebook and the web are full of people now lining up to exploit the crisis. Houses can be bought at auction for hundreds of dollars. The same forces that put millions in jeopardy are now fighting over the scraps.

Here is the overview by region.

Here is an overview by house price change.

All our research tells us is that this is not the end but the beginning.

As I see it, the issue is larger than a person losing their home. The real risk is that too many people in a city will give up on being a citizen. They will give up not simply because they lost their home but because they think that they have been betrayed. They went for the Dream and they were taken for a ride.

So what can we do? Can we save every home? Should we save every home? Can we save every home?

I think the answer is no to all of those questions. But I think we can do this:

  • If we can find real help that can be trusted – we can help those that can be helped to save their house
  • If we can connect people in trouble to each other, they can maybe help others save their homes and ALSO get the emotional support that they need
  • If we can show to the larger community that we are all involved, then we can end the blame and the shame and we can mobilize the entire community – as we are seeing in the Iowa Floods – for this is a collective disaster.
  • If we can show that people are no longer helpless then hope will return
  • At worst, if we can show that you can lose your home and still be OK, then we will really achieved something for what we will have done is shown that there is a community and that it does care about you. That the Dream is not dead.

A public TV station that has no ax to grind may have the essential trust to take up this work. A Public TV station that does its best to learn how to use Social Media might have a chance.

KETC, Channel 9, in St Louis has been chosen by CPB to develop a template and a set of tools for Public TV that will have a real shot at ensuring that that we might be able to do this. We have until the end of August to make a difference.

We are going to need your help.

I will do my best to tell you what we are doing – as we try stuff. Please let me know what you think.

As a start I need to find some well connected bloggers in St Louis. If you are one or know one please let me know in the comments.

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