Congratulations go to Paul Visco, who presented his MFA project to his committee (Josephine Anstey [chair], Loss Pequeño Glazier, and me) today. The project, which I’ve written about before, is the Elmwood strip community site, which has existed in various incarnations since 2002. The initial site was started as part of a Virtual Communities class, and has grown to become a large, influential, and interesting site over the past few years.
It’s interesting because it has grown up largely outside of the blogging phenomenon. It’s a bit like LiveJournal in this respect, but to an even more extreme degree. Paul made the site in response to the needs and the interests of the community, and as a result, it feels a lot like other blogs in some ways, and not at all in others. Judged on its own merits, it is a striking design, and has a very rich feature set. Particularly for community-based journalism/journaling, which has always been at the heart of the project, I think you would be hard-pressed to find a better platform.
But it is also interesting in the ways in which it integrates with the physical community–a section just north of downtown Buffalo surrounding Elmwood
Boulevard Avenue–but manages not to integrate much with other blogs. Certainly, there are links to it from other prominent blogs in Buffalo, and it is widely read by bloggers in the area, but it has somehow managed–largely by design–to be a very place-based community website, and for that reason, among others, a particularly interesting collaborative community. Paul did a lot to publicize the site, but none of it was virtual publicity. Mostly, he linked to the site from the physical location: the side of his house, chalking the sidewalk, or t-shirts on people.