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Hyperlocal Growing Pains

Toronto’s accordion darling Joey DeVilla posted a firecracker the other day proposing that Toronto Needs More Toronto Blogs, stating:

I’ve got nothin’ against twenty-somethings who like hanging out in charming local dives, listening to indie rock and buying things at thrift shops. […] I just think that there’s room for other “What’s going on?” blogs. Even Will Pate, who’s part of the BlogTO/Torontoist demographic says “Dude, there’s got to be more” (not a direct quote, but that’s exactly the way he’d say it).

We need blogs that cover events in areas outside the hipster core, whether they’re in the near-burbs like Etobicoke, North York and Scarborough, or out in the 905 area code. Blogs for people who work in offices, drop their kids off at hockey practice and have Costco memberships. Blogs for people who don’t look as if they were descended from the Family Compact. Blogs for people who both buy fair trade coffee and Harry Rosen shirts. Blogs for people who work the night shift.

The comments have been respectful, thoughtful and interesting, with editors and contributors of the current faves, BlogTO and the Torontoist, weighing in with demographic surveys and their perspectives, as well as even some fitting that latter characterization offering support for those sites.

This post also inspired Rebecca aka Miss604‘s Vancouver version of this post. I personally would have modified the list slightly for a west coast feel. Maybe more references to pot, camping, drinking Starbucks at protests, and Japanese ESL students. Whatever, it’s not a precise science.

This was particularly interesting to me in the wake of a meeting I had with a Geography professor regarding my TransitCamp project. He gave me the run down on the actual academic tradition behind all these terms I’ve just started throwing around that I know absolutely nothing about, like public space, collaborative planning, the Creative Class, and gentrification, and added some another ones that I hadn’t heard of at all, like sense of place, place identity, and place attachment. He also pointed out another thing that struck him as a paradox – as one of the Facebook Generation (I swore I’d never use that term but I think it applies having spent an entire day on it playing Scrabble), it didn’t really occur to me that it would be so – that the Internet, traditionally thought of as transcending space, has now reversed that lack of grounded physicality to go ‘hyperlocal‘. He is also a published critic of the Creative Class theory’s glossing over gentrification and some of the problems that may arise in remaking a place as a creative city. From his writing, I gather that that he spent some time studying Austin and its housing affordability problems related with its economic boom, and is now in Vancouver to watch things go similarly pear-shaped with the Olympics.

I don’t read Vancouver’s hyperlocal staples, Metroblogging Vancouver, Beyond Robson and Urban Vancouver, nearly enough to determine whether they are or are not catering to all crowds, so the thread on Rebecca’s site has been mostly enlightening for me. I would like to nominate Translink’s The Buzzer to be a hyperlocal publication. Anyone want to scrape together an RSS feed while Translink continues waking up to the 21st century?

Anyhow, I am rather fascinated by this hyperlocality (which, I am told, someone did an Honours on two years ago – d’oh!). I define this as blogs that celebrate local businesses, local arts and culture scenes, local food, local trends, the things and people that make these places unlike any other, which becomes necessary swimming in seas of globalization. Hyperlocal sites, by this definition, find it easier to source their written material from what’s happening in those places that define themselves as being innovative and creative, and get lots of attention for doing so. Will BlogTO start publishing reviews on what’s cool at the Markham Theatre For The Performing Arts (which I worked across the street from for a year and a half and never once visited)? For me, the real question is, are the people of Markham willing to write their own PR in ways that engage the people that live outside Markham? Are they giving tickets to BlogTO for them to attend their performances (along with a VIVA bus schedule)?

I guess I should really talk, I live in Cariboo Heights now. I’m barely here most of the time, and when I am I’m sleeping. What can I say, the gated townhouse complex doesn’t encourage me to write, and neither does driving to get out of here.

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  1. […] I’ve talked to a few profs who have all been enthusiastic and had very valuable insight into how I should approach the topic, including the aforementioned Geography prof. […]

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