Annual Meeting Contributed Papers 2009 START Conference Manager    

Practicing Place: Collective Experience and Difference in an Urban Online Forum

Dana Walker and Patrick Wehner

(Submission #64)


Despite predictions to the contrary, place has assumed a new significance through recent innovations in digital technology. In this paper, we argue that the exchange of information and experience occurring daily on the networked urban forum Phillyblog can be usefully conceptualized as the practice of place. In adopting these terms, we draw upon Wenger’s concept of a community of practice, but also observe several points of departure that are characteristic of Phillyblog and potentially, other place-based online forums. Within the context of Phillyblog, the practice of place (1) publicizes and reinforces collective experiences of the city and (2) plays an active role in constructing the distinctness and diversity of its neighborhoods. As a diverse set of goals and conversations overlap on Phillyblog, competing visions of the city and its possible futures regularly come into competition. But unlike those who see the arguments, insults, and general cacophony of the forum threads as the signs of dysfunction, we believe them to be the very essence of practicing place. Phillybloggers are, in so many words, there for the conversation.

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