06 November 2009

Evolving Urban Attitudes Online

Attitudes towards cities have changed a lot in this past decade. I'm not sure when blogs started, but I know I started reading them in 2001. I know that because I remember I was starting to read Cincinnati Blog and Andrew Sullivan then; the first because of the April 2001 riots, and the latter because of 911 and the Iraq war.

Before that I was a pretty avid newspaper reader. And if you remember then, the back and forth discussion online was mostly in the comment section of the newspapers. And unfortunately the attitude there has not changed much. The comments' section in the Enquirer are overwhelmingly ignorant and bigoted. It is really discouraging to read them, especially if the article has something to do about crime, downtown or the deadly mix of crime downtown.

I didn't feel that there were many like-minded people out there. I never commented on sites as they seemed to be dominated by thoughtless screaming text, and so many people seemed to hate Cincinnati, black people, homeless people, and the most common refrain was "I'm so glad I left Cincinnati and moved to ...".

A few years later, in 2004, I found a site with many like minded souls: Urban Ohio. Not that the contributors there are all of the same political ilk (they aren't) but they all had a love of Midwestern cities. And at first I was a lurker but finally started minor contributions in 2005.

And pretty quickly after this more blogs started to appear that were urban oriented. And through this medium I found the comfort of similarly minded people. Sometimes when lots of bad things are happening in your neighborhood, it is such a relief to find people who are going through the same things.

I feel that the best blogs are micro focused on their city or even their neighborhood, and I love this aspect of the online experience. Today my RSS reader is full of dozens of high quality blogs talking about transit, rehabbing buildings, form-based codes, urbanism etc etc. I never have to resort to reading the Enquirer reader's comments anymore.

But most of this time, I would say that suburban sprawl continued to be seen as desirable and inevitable, especially in the Midwest. Only in the past two years, after some higher gas prices, and the home mortgage/credit crisis did the cracks in the suburban model become visible to a wider audience. And now, if I read an article about how much time or money is wasted on cars, I will find it reposted on many blogs before I even get a chance to write about it. So I kinda feel I am wasting my time focusing on that kind of general anti-sprawl stuff.

So I think it is time to refocus here; refocus on Downtown Cincinnati, and specifically on how families cope and sometimes thrive here. This is still not covered enough by others. Choosing to raise a family in OTR may still seen by many as dumb, but through this blog and through other social networking, I have found that there are hundreds of families like ours; thousands, depending on where you draw the circle. Many are in surrounding neighborhoods like Mt. Adams, Newport, Covington, Clifton, Northside etc.. and they are living their dreams out in this city, supporting the schools, coaching soccer, walking to the library, swimming in the pools, sledding in the parks, skating on Fountain Square, taking kids to the Symphony or to plays, riding bikes around town and generally living an enriching life while raising normal healthy kids.

So I am taking a hiatus from posting here for a little while, maybe until the end of the year or so. I want to take a little time to rethink the purpose here. I have a couple posts that are already written and scheduled to appear later this month. Also, the co-bloggers may post some stuff. I realize that the dominance of Twitter and Facebook have kinda taken the place of one of my original goals here, which was to meet new people. That works better on those social networking sites than in a blog. The blog is better suited to longer essays and more extensive photo postings. I'm not sure if 2 small posts a day is really worth it. It sometimes seems like one well-thought out post per week would be better. But if that is the case, maybe I need more collaborators or it will be too sparse. But either way, I'll be here, at this site, in some form or other.


John F. said...

I wish--I sincerely wish--that the Enquirer would turn off comments on their news stories online. They serve absolutely no edifying purpose in their current form. Absolutely none.

But like passing by a grisly accident scene, I always have to just peek to see what kind of horrifyingly idiotic things are being said. And I'm never disappointed. Well--I'm always disappointed.

You don't go to the NYT and find such a wasteland of idiocy after every story. Why does our city, our community's paper, have to suffer such a childish cesspool? I can't figure out who at the Enquirer thinks it's serving any purpose. Or what citizen except the losers posting racist garbage on there, would care that the comments were turned off or cleaned up?

Oh well.

Anyway, I've been enjoying your blog for a couple years now. Hope to continue to do so in whatever form it takes.

Unknown said...

I found myself slogging it out on Enq message boards as part of a concerted effort whenever any streetcar or issue 9 article came up. I think we actually did a good job beating back the clay-eating mouthbreathers, but I'm going to retire the pseudonym for a while.

In any event, good post. I agree that the narrative has really changed for the better as far as the city is concerned. We are generating some decent momentum. Good idea to re-focus and recharge. See you around.

Randy Simes said...

Good luck with everything. I can't wait to see what you decide to do next with CityKin. The site is a real asset and provides a great resource for urban families. Maybe you could continue to hone in on that.

Radarman said...

Allow a grizzled elder to point out that you are, as the father of school age children living where you do, in a unique position to observe, analyze, comment on, etc. the coming train wreck that looms as SCPA opens cheek by jowl with the Drop Inn Center. I fervently hope that you will start some investigative blogging to find out if either party is prepared to negotiate peaceful coexistence, or if there has even been any organized planning. This is a big story that has no narrator at present.

Unknown said...

I see tremendous potential in the "worlds collide" scenario of SCPA + Drop-In Center (and other social service orgs in that area, my new home). Let's put those creative kids to work making art that matters to the community. Let Washington Park be their studio, their audience and inspiration, and let the school be a place where anyone can come and experience excellence, poetry, transformation, hope. Yeah, security will be an ongoing challenge, to say the least. But I see engagement--authentic, consistent, long-haul engagement--as the bigger challenge, on all sides. The payoff, though, could be incredible: those kids could accomplish something in OTR no condo development or row of snazzy storefronts could. Here's hoping.
And Mike, wherever you go with this blog, I'm with you!

Morris said...

Mike, I hope you're back posting soon. I always find your blog worth reading, whether it's just a picture or a longer story. It's all good.

5chw4r7z said...

First Queen City Survey and now you!
I've always enjoyed the blog Mike, recharge and I hope you come steaming back with a vengeance.
Will bsherm still be posting?

CityKin said...

This morning after posting this, I went in and organized a bunch of half-done posts, and ended up with several a week for the next month, so I guess I cannot stop even when I want to....

However, I do have some severe work deadlines that take priority. Also, I was reviewing my New-Years list from January and there are still a few things on that list I would like to get done before December 31st, and none of them are blog related.

I think the DIC issue is something worth discussing, and I usually avoid it. Julie is planning that her daughter will attend SCPA, and we are considering it for our kids too. My understanding is that the DIC is in the midst of some re-organizing and I've kinda lost touch on where the Washington Park re-development stands.

I think what the response to this post shows is that a longer, more thoughtful post generates lots more response than a photo or link to an article. Not that those don't have value, but there is no substitute for original content. I must be thick headed, because I keep forgetting that lesson.

Unknown said...

I touch briefly on Washington Park redevelopment and current status/timetable in my column in next week's Soapbox...so stay tuned.

VisuaLingual said...

Mike, I can understand that maintaining this site is a burden to some extent, but your perspective is unique and invaluable, in my humble opinion.

Maybe a Facebook page, or even a Twitter account, could better serve to directly connect your fellow basin-dwelling parents to each other and to relevant resources, but the blog, especially its longer posts, serves a great function.

I hope you can find a way to balance everything that's on your plate, and maybe shift some of the burden to current or future CityKin co-bloggers.

Kareem said...

I do love city-centric blogs but you can't discount those blogs that speak of things larger then the immediate region.

McEwan said...

Keep blogging, please.
I, too, have found the intelligent conversation on blogs like yours to be a welcome relief from the Enquirer comment streams. Even the people that I agree with there piss me off to no end. I would much rather read in on your discussions here, whether I always agree or not.

I've just begun my own blog on issues of raising a family in an urban setting. Maybe you'd consider linking to it on your blogroll?


And I'm the neighbor who answered your post about the cloth diapers. Thanks, by the way... My son's bum thanks you, too.


Anonymous said...

I would miss you very much -- you have a reasoned, considered, informed and perceptive sensibility that's rather unique, on topics I care about, that I haven't found addressed in any depth elsewhere. I've learned things here -- and I don't mean the odd little fact or news bit, though they have their uses too -- I mean things that have changed or furthered my thinking. And, as a plus, you have a very judiciously selected, carefully maintained blogroll I use all the time.

But it wouldn't be the first time one of the blogs on my regular route through the ether went on sabbatical or called it quits. It's a job/career in itself, blogging, and all of us have many other important things in our lives with claims on our time and attention that can't be denied.

Michael Berube wrote a post a month or two ago on Crooked Timber on the evolution of the blog world. The one-person shop is giving way to a group model that is more like a magazine. You're part of a larger trend, none of us get to live outside of history. Good luck with whatever you decide to do, and if you do bow out, many thanks for many happy hours of reading, thinking and viewing images.

Blue Ash Mom

CityKin said...

Walking Green: Great Blog!