Winter-Spring 2002

Running LAPs: On the Local Access Path
by Max Gail and Casey Hughes
LAP Logo and URL

The challenges we face are very real. So is our potential to solve them. We are at once on the brink of annihilation—and global fulfillment. Information and communications technologies are making it possible for our voices to reach each other, an essential part of the positive solution. And it is local access to information and communications technologies that can be the pathway to a livable future.

But the local access pathway is not a clear, well-traveled one yet. "Community" and "technology" are older than the words we use for them, as are "centers" and "networks." We are using these words in the context of a profound transformation. We search for and create new metaphors to talk about it, to guide us in our next steps on the path, on our quest for a new paradigm.

Paradigms and Changing Times

Science historian Thomas Kuhn pointed out that the mechanistic theory of life was what he called a paradigm, Greek for "pattern," a collectively held model of reality, a belief system or worldview that influences the way we perceive our universe, our institutions and ourselves. Kuhn showed that periods of revolutionary change involve the replacement of old scientific paradigms by new ones.



For millennia Europeans clung to the paradigm that the sun traveled around the Earth. Now we hold a larger paradigm within which we perceive "sunsets" but conceive a solar system nested in a galaxy nested in a cluster of galaxies and so on. Such shifts do not happen easily.

Can you imagine the whole picture, the pattern, existing at every level from individual to organizational to global including the ecosystem of which we are a part?

How do we collectively steer this abundant relation ship of relationships?

LAP — a big little word
The Lap Circle
The Lap Circle, a trust-building exercise. When you sit down, you create a physical environment out of your physical self, your lap. And you sit on something you trust for support. If a group of people comes together in a circle of trust, the circle can support itself. It looks funny because it's a lot of laughs. (The Lap session pictured here was run in Reno last year with participants from the community technology, parks and recreation, disability fields, and elsewhere.)

The notion of LAP involves both a metaphor and a "macronym," meaning one acronym for many overlapping components of one whole. A community LAP is the safe, nurturing storytelling, teaching/learning, responsibility sharing circle of community made up of Local Access Places, Platforms, Programs, Partners, Participants. The Local Access Purpose is the fulfillment of needs and aspirations that enhances the chances for new generations. The Local Access Process is to run LAPs. At the primary level that means to circle up and share visions according to the Local Access Principles of Love And Peace, Learn At Play, Laughter And Passion, Language And Process, Looking At Possibilities, Leveraging All Participation, Linking Alternate Paradigms, Literacy Artistry Poetry, Legality Accountability Proactivity, Lens Aperture Perspective, and, particularly relevant here, Land And People.

The Local Access Promise is to nurture diverse, interwoven sustainable local communities globally by facilitating and modeling the emergence of computer-empowered, creativity-inspiring, consensus-building community communication centers and networks. These LAPs are emerging in community centers, parks, schools, libraries, housing projects, college and trade school campuses, training centers, and hospitals as well as in public/retail areas such as malls, bookstores, and workplaces. (This is being written from the Vital LAP. The Vital is Southern California's oldest organic farm.)

Community technology practitioners operate in these different organizational circles, connected and integrated with all kinds of media and technology, from broadcast to the Internet. One of the most exciting and essential areas where this is happening is the lapping of community technology and parks and recreation public space. As all the circles grow they overlap and the perception of a field emerges, aided immensely by efforts such as this journal. We need to keep growing the circle thus helping all the circles to grow...and lap with all the circles of community in the circle of life. LAP is an open invitation to an open heart, open mind, open source, open space, open game. No one owns it; everyone can use it; anyone can improve it. shows more about LAPs and how they can be run in any and all communities.

Max Gail is an LAP caretaker, community activist, and actor (frequently known for his portrayal of Wojohowicz on "Barney Miller"). Casey Hughes is the founder of KMunity and a pioneer in developing community technology applications.

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