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.