Friday, November 07, 2008

Rust Belt Voices

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette gives the Great Lakes Urban Exchange (GLUE) some good press, interviewing co-founder Abby Wilson (Pittsburgh boomerang migrant):

The exchange has three main initiatives -- community building, storytelling and blogging, and advocacy. GLUE is currently focusing on multimedia blogging and citizen journalism, and its second conference, to be held in February in Milwaukee, will train people as citizen journalists to help Rust Belt cities come up with solutions to things they encounter in their communities.

I've been following GLUE's trajectory, trying to figure out how Rust Belt Bloggers might compliment Abby's (and Sarah's) efforts. Cynthia Closkey, guest blogging at Keystone Edge, articulates our new direction:

In Pittsburgh and throughout western Pennsylvania we spend a lot of time fretting that we're still thought to be worn out, our best days behind us--and we spend a lot of time wondering how to change perceptions. The no-fail method seems to be bringing people here to see for themselves, but until we find a way to get everyone to come in for a big old slumber party, we need an alternative.

Here it is: We're having a Neighborhood Walk. Everyone is invited. And everyone's hosting too, if they want to.

The idea came up at PodCamp, in fact. I think it was Janko of I Will Shout Youngstown who suggested it, at a session that functioned as the second Rust Belt Bloggers meeting. We are looking for ways to use social media to help "promote the urban frontier"--most specifically, the post-industrial cities in the rust belt of the U.S. and Canada.

This isn't just about Pittsburgh. The same concerns apply to other rust belt cities: Johnstown, Youngstown, Erie, Cleveland, Buffalo. We want everyone to get involved.

The Neighborhood Walk will happen Nov. 11. On that day, everyone is encouraged to take a walk around their neighborhood and to photograph or video or draw or sculpt or somehow to document it, and then to share the media they create online.

The idea is to show others where you live--the good and the bad of it, and maybe your hopes and plans for its future.

The Neighborhood Walk is in the same spirit of another PodCamp Pittsburgh spinoff: OMGPittsburgh. I would frame that project as an attempt to better communicate the Pittsburgh sense of place and its value proposition. I hope Rust Belt Bloggers can do something similar, but on a mega-regional scale. My goal is to attract more newcomers to the area because they appreciate what Pittsburgh, Cleveburgh, or the Postindustrial Heartland has to offer. In these cities are unique opportunities for ambitious young adults to make a substantial impact, but that message is difficult to impart. Both Neighborhood Walk and OMGPittsburgh, along with Rust Belt Bloggers, are trying to address that shortcoming.

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