35. What's local, anyway?

The KCET Local bloggers* met with the station's new media people on Saturday morning. The four-hour conversation wove through lunch and included, later in the day, more staff members in a discussion about social networking and KCET.

(*Ophelia Chong, Brian Doherty, Adolfo Guzman-Lopez, Erin Aubry Kaplan, Jeremy Rosenberg, Holly Willis, and me)

All of them are formidably intelligent and informed. The station's new media people, in particular, have thought hard about the implications of social networking and the technology behind it. They have large ambitions. It's as if they were standing beside railroad tracks watching a steam locomotive go by in 1900 already imagining a bullet train: what it might look like, how its infrastructure will work, what impact that would have on passengers and the places they want to go.

One of the places KCET wants to go is local, although "local" ought to have an elastic definition. (KCET's signal goes a long way: north to parts of Ventura County, east to Palms Springs, and south to parts of San Diego County.) Local and the Web are places that overlap, of course, but the fit is problematic. There is no "here" on the Web; there are clusters of affinities and aspirations, however.

I write about why/how a particular place matters by writing about where I am. I'll presume that particular places matter to you. I believe that places have a shaping power over lives, that they have something to do with our acquisition of a moral imagination. Places are where, in the crudest sense, politics happen. Places demand loyalty and continuity (and we are uncomfortable with demands and so footloose).

Can you acquire a sense of place at Facebook? That's my part of the social media question that the bloggers circled around on Saturday. I didn't have an answer. But maybe you might.

The image on this page was taken by Flickr user Luc Legay. It was used under a Creative Commons license.