The Internet Doesn’t Do Local Well

I’ve recently noted that my blogging tends to be non-local. The things I encounter on the Internet tend to come from south of the border, leaving me scrambling to try to relate things to a Canadian, Manitoban, or Winnipegger perspective. An article about racism towards African Americans in the USA can draw parallels to the systemic mistreatment of Canada’s indigenous peoples, even though the history and present circumstances are vastly different.1 This approach always begs far more questions than it answers.

As someone who is largely a link blogger at present, my writing is the product of what I find interesting on the web that day, and non-local things simply have the largest signal in the noisy stream of things that make their way across my awareness.2

So, when I read Why Don’t We “Like” Our Neighbors?—which disucsses how the Internet seems better at national and global issues than local ones—I found myself nodding in agreement and wondering about my own inability to link to local issues any more than rarely. While the Internet’s fundamental architcure is decentralized, strong consolidating forces are at work:

Both mass media and digital media rely primarily on advertising revenue, and the political economy of nearly all media runs on corporate consolidation and big business funding. Meanwhile, the proliferation of consumer goods and services has made the buying experience incredibly complex, as anyone who has spent 20 minutes reading Amazon reviews to find the right meat thermometer can tell you. The advertising model relies on sensationalist news items to attract more viewers, and these types of stories are less likely to occur at the local level. Frankly, my local news is pretty boring relative to Trump’s latest fascist tirade.

Maybe the Internet doesn’t do local well simply because we don’t. To over-simplify, we seem to prefer relationships mediated by the technology of the Internet to those mediated by flesh-and-bones contact. And why not? Maybe it’s been a great way to not feel so damn lonely in our isolating suburbs. Maybe this wouldn’t be an issue if we didn’t have a fundamentally anti-social built environment. Maybe.

This is the place where I would ordinarily pretend to have a conclusion. I don’t. I’m going to be thinking about this more.

  1. The main point of commonality is that each country sees prejudice against these communities as largely normal and justified, while hypocritically judging other nations for their own treatment of minority groups. 
  2. Twitter and RSS, mainly. 

5 responses to “The Internet Doesn’t Do Local Well”

  1. I think you do local well. Choosing to not live in the suburbs and intentionally get to know your community is a huge step. Getting to know neighbours is not easy, nor is it for everyone. Some of us just don’t do small talk well. Maybe I’m not understanding the question. I love the topic though and opening up the discussion for more brainstorming on connections with the local is wonderful.

  2. The main thing here was that *the Internet* doesn’t serve localities very well, although my musings were pretty all over the place. The thing for me is that to engage with local issues online is hard since there just isn’t much to engage with in that context.

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