There is a sense in which Singapore does not have enough metaphorical social spaces. But what is a social space? I’m referring to the conceptual version of the term, not the literal “spaces or places to hang out with people.”
A social space is a gathering of people in physical and virtual environments in which they can talk through, and act on, the things the gathering are interested about. More importantly, a social space is also a promise or a commitment.
Why do I say that? I say that because it is assumed in the gathering of people, that they will commit themselves to rules to get the conversation started, that they will be constructive, and that they will to varying degrees, agree and support to further actions that might arise out of the gathering.
What does it mean? It means that a social space is constructed, by the people who are together, and who can get to know one another, and share common interests. A social space can grow, to take on more people.
The social spaces that I take part in all have some rules, or guidelines on how to be, to be a member of these spaces. And they have gone on to take action of some kind. I have also seen other social spaces too.
I have seen a social space for inter-faith dialogue, for people to talk through their stories of faith experiences. I have seen a social space to talk through the concepts of financial management. I have seen a social space to talk through initiatives in the social sector.
A social space is open. What I would like this to mean is that: these spaces are not structured spaces in which there are hierarchies and in which you need permission to enter. These are open spaces, where entry is based only on sharing common interest.
A social space is participatory, which I would like to mean than anyone can come in, and provide their own views about how it could be, subject of course, to the views of others. This is neither chaos or complete order, but social spaces are also often spaces of negotiation, not just for the topic of interest, but also about the form of the negotiations.
There are of course, loads of social spaces on other things; on human rights, on the environment (and further subdivisions exist). I think social spaces are one key requirement for addressing the challenges to come, and I hope to see more of them soon.