Sunday, May 20, 2012

Rust Belt Chic Silicon Valley

Rust Belt Chic is taking over Silicon Valley. As I've posted, it already owns Portland. I consume a lot of media every day. Often, I have a hunch that the person featured in the article or the journalist who wrote it is from Pittsburgh or some other part of the Rust Belt. From the New York Times, the next big thing out of Silicon Valley (no, really):

So it was refreshing to discover a new start-up called DIY, which offers a do-it-yourself — or maker, in Valley jargon — community for children.

DIY is seeking to be like a Boy Scout troop for the modern day. Instead of teaching children how to tie a clove hitch that seems fit for teenagers in the 1920s, DIY, a Web site and mobile app, will encourage children to build things, document them with an iPhone or iPod, and then receive rewards for their work. ...

... Mr. Klein and Mr. Saxon said DIY was not just a clubhouse, either. Although they couldn’t share specifics, both men said the company was working with a major production company to make a feature-length movie. “The movie is about the characters from DIY, which will be a group of kids who save their small Rust Belt town through hacking, making and building,” Mr. Klein said.

Emphasis added. That's a quote from Zach Klein (Vimeo co-founder). DIY. Maker. I'm familiar with the ethos. The search is on. Bingo:

Before I became a loyal Hoosier, I was born in Rochester, NY then raised in Buffalo for 8 years. Almost all of my extended family still lives in Erie and Wyoming counties

I’m torn between my hometown allegiances, but what I’ve recently realized is how similar a story of these Great Lake, Rust Belt cities share: The epic of a boom town built on the shoulders of immigrants, and the tragedy of its collapse when her canals were outpaced by railroads and industry and the swells of people flooding the country moved past them further out West.

These old bones — Buffalo, Cleveland, Detroit, Toledo and Fort Wayne — are still strong. I’m certain that the generation — we’re makers! — that inherited these places will weld something with the scraps.

Emphasis added. DIY Brooklyn is Rust Belt Chic. Little wonder why so many hipsters are attracted to Greenpoint. We are all workers. We're makers! Anyone from "here" understands it.

A generation of makers have made their marks outside of the Rust Belt. Now, they are moving back home to reclaim their heritage. Shrinking cities are finally ready for them. Meanwhile, suburban-reared intellectuals are crying foul. Return migrants are not natives. They didn't stay and stick out the tough times. They are not authentic urban dwellers, but posers exploiting the true residents. Locals only.

Who gets to claim a Rust Belt soul? There is an army of graduate students and professors who would like to check your papers and verify that you have callouses on your hands. If you wear glasses, then you are bourgeois. The cultural policing is nauseating.

The exodus from Detroit and Pittsburgh is not a symbol of the failure of capitalism. It is emblematic of its resounding success. If you could afford to leave Braddock for the suburban ideal, you left. The dramatic population decline is testament to how many people had the means to do so. The latest wave of globalization is transforming the urban core. Rust Belt refugees, for better or for worse, are leading the charge. You were brought up to work hard and adapt. You are not risk averse. You are driven to succeed.

Rust Belt Chic turns the stereotype (e.g. brain drain) on its head. Outmigration is a point of pride, not an admission of shame. The struggles of the generations before us are still fresh topics of conversation around the holiday table. Once or twice a year, we see how far our extended family has come. There is nothing ironic about learning to appreciate one's own culture, to celebrate one's identity. Still, we are caught between two places. We are Rust Belt transnationals. Nowhere is home.

1 comment:

anmihail said...

This week's City Paper cover: THE MAKERS, large and bold, back-dropped by a woman with a belt sander.