A sense of place

The Birmingham Bloggers meet last night went well, with a good turnout and some exceptionally high-quality discussions on a variety of topics. I found myself burning up with jealously a couple of times as people talked about the exciting projects they were working on. Jon Bounds has a nice little write-up. Nick was an absolute gent as always. I met Stef for the first time, and was blown away by some of the stuff he is doing, mashing up social media services.

One thing that came up was that ‘Birmingham Bloggers’ is too narrow a title. Something based around the term ‘social media’ might be best – maybe a Social Media Club, like Lloyd runs in London?

Much of the discussion was around how bloggers can help improve the image and raise the profile of Birmingham, especially in the light of the second city’s total exclusion from this Guardian write up about city bloggers. A number of possible solutions were discussed, with the general feeling that a planet of Birmingham based bloggers would be a good idea. I’m going to have a look at putting this together.

On the way home I thought a Birmingham based customised search engine might help. brumsearch was born this afternoon πŸ˜‰ I like building things and being (hopefully) helpful.

But this focus on the geographical element of the meeting – discussions around promoting Birmingham through social media – left me feeling pretty isolated. I live in Kettering, an hour’s drive away, but work in Coventry, just down the road. This meeting is the nearest thing I can get to as a group of people who dig new media.

Charlotte, who also attended, wrote along similar lines:

The thing about a meeting like this is that it is hard to figure out why we’re getting together. I guess to meet and share with a bunch of folks with a similar pursuit…

I came away feeling pretty down about the whole thing. These guys were so enthused about where they live and what they can do to improve things… But I don’t have that sense of place, not about Birmingham (obviously) nor indeed anywhere else.

9 thoughts on “A sense of place”

  1. I’m sure you do have a sense of place. So I suspect the issue is about something else. But what? I’d be interested in hearing you elaborate on it a bit more.

    My own impressions were more nebulous – after Nick and Jon each repeated comments to the effect that there was no agenda, no particular purpose. Of course, Nick backtracked on that when he suggested that bloggers could bring down the (nonexistent) elected mayor of Birmingham. But that just means he’s operating in the realm of fantasy about Birmingham. You could too; it’s up to you.

    It was nice hearing your ideas last night, and thanks for putting together the search engine!

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  3. @David

    I must have sounded much more sombre than I intended! I was just rather jealous that these guys are so proud of where they come from. I don’t think I realised that the Birmingham in Birmingham Bloggers was more importan than the blogging!

  4. I think you might have a point there. πŸ™‚ It conjures up an idea about people anxiously trying to look nonchalant! But there is the fact of people who’ve made long-term efforts to do stuff in their town, and there’s still a question about whether place matters.

  5. I think it does… the example was raised about whether a guy from Birmingham who blogs exclusively about his activities in World of Warcraft is really a Birmingham Blogger or just a blogger who lives in Birmingham. I’m not sure what the answer is, but I think that it is naive to think that what we write isn’t affected by our physical surroundings, at however deep a subconscious level.

    In other words, the way in which that guy writes about WoW is what makes him a Birmingham Blogger, not his subject matter which could be a million miles away from where he (and let’s face it, it is a he πŸ˜‰ ) is actually blogging from.

  6. Hiya

    Just wanted to add two penneth – I also had issues around the whole blogging in order to promote Birmingham I think it is missing the point. I liked your point above about the local context – for example my blog is about developing entrepreneruship in the creative industries – this is related to my research. But frequently it will have a local (usually WM sometimes Bham) context, story or perspective. I go to more events and conferences locally and I blog about them. However my blog (as I said that night) is not about marketing aything. I am not a travel writer. But like Stef et al., I would like the place I live to be great and for other people to recognise that. So if inadvertantly my blog helps that well then that is ok. However the minute it becomes contrived or superficially upbeat about Bham well then it wont work (IMHO). I think us being able to be critical is just as useful and that there is interesting activity, research and ideas coming out of here adds to the overall sense of Bham as a place.

    Waffle over

    Charlotte

  7. Charlotte – thanks for dropping by. One good thing that came out of the meet was the number of new RSS feeds I have subscribed to – and two of them were yours!

    The feelings seem to be fairly similar across many of the comments people have made on their blogs about the meet. Maybe it was just because it was the first one and that</b? Guardian article was fresh in people’s minds that the subject dominated so.

    I’d like to spend the next meeting just getting to know people better.

  8. Three points:
    1. The online conversation seems to be developing legs, somewhat after the fact. That’s nice.

    2. I have also subscribed to more blogs as a result of the meeting and subsequent reports. It also means I have a question for you on another post.

    3. Blogging and place: Dave Hickey said ca. 1995, in paraphrase: ‘if you are working in your (architecture) studio and listening to Jane’s Addiction on your walkman, and the design you are creating shows no evidence of what you were listening to, you are contributing to the division of labour’. Transfer that idea to blogging and place. If you are a writer living in a place and your work shows no evidence of that, then….

    The point about divisions of labour has to do with artifice, where the constraints we impose upon ourselves skew our sense of self and our ways of being in the world. The architect and the writer make choices about what to include and exclude, and the end product is a statement about those inclusions and exclusions. They reflect on the author, and on the community of users/readers.

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