Yesterday was Neighbour Day. Neighbour Day, in my understanding, is promoted as a way of people making themselves visible to their neighbours. Neighbours are primarily defined as those people who live nearby: ‘next door, across the street or on the next farm’. (from neighbourday.org) The benefits of being visible include having a network of support if something goes wrong. In the most extreme case, there will be somebody who notices if you die.
The organisation which organises Neighbour Day has a newsletter named ‘Verandah’. Verandahs are often thought of as part of the design of Australian suburban houses, particularly in warmer parts of the country, able to offer both greater protection from the weather and a semi-sheltered space on private property from which the outside world can be observed and occasionally engaged with.
In my life, Neighbour Day is most visible through its presence on Twitter*. Neighbour Day has a Twitter account- @NeighbourDay. The text in the account’s profile reads,
‘The community you want starts at your front door TM. Australia’s annual celebration of community is held on the last Sunday in March …’
Tweets are posted drawing connections to other events or news stories. This makes these other stories visible and enacts a link between Neighbour Day and these happenings.
Andrew Heslop, the founder, appears frequently in my Twitter news feed via @AndrewHeslop.
Between these two accounts, mentions of Neighbour Day are retweeted and acknowledged through tweets thanking and tagging those who made the mention. This makes tweets about Neighbour Day visible to me as otherwise those tweets by people I do not follow would not show up in my news feed.
There are also tweets by Andrew Heslop about some of his day to day activities. In particular, companies and groups which support his promotion of Neighbour Day are acknowledged. For example, I often find myself reading which airline he flew with.
Although being neighbourly and building community are sometimes put forward as a counter to a focus on people as consumers in a globalised market place, Neighbour Day suggests that there is not necessarily a contradiction here. The Neighbour Day Twitter account makes this clear through the reference to a trademark in the description of Neighbour Day and the visibility of networks of corporate sponsorship for an organisation described as promoting community.
People making themselves visible to each other (which I suggest is an underpinning premise of Neighbour Day) can also be understood as using neighbouring to bring the concept of community in line with an understanding of people as consumers. Although the topic of some debate, in Australia home ownership is generally accepted as an aspirational norm and a significant amount of discourse about economic policies is framed around home ownership. Neighbours are part of how home is consumed in a general sense, perhaps especially when neighbours are used as a buffer when other systems of consumption are unable to meet needs (e.g. to know if you have had a fall or a heart attack and need help but also to be noticed in general). It is up to each of us to have the community we want when it comes to where we live.
* Twitter can be used in a number of ways. I use Twitter in a particularly unsophisticated way, I have the app on my phone and do not use any filters, so I will generally see whatever happens to have been posted recently when I happen to check the site. The recent posts I will see are for the most part those posted from accounts I ‘follow’–I have selected them as accounts I want to see the [short pieces of text, images and links called] tweets from when I open Twitter.