So Brooklyn is (one of) the “bloggiest” place in America (see endnote) – a fact verified and positively fêted at Thursday night’s Brooklyn Blogfest, now in its robust fourth year. Here was the opportunity to put faces to the blogs based in this truly outspoken borough, and more than 300 digerati emerged to revel in each other at The Powerhouse Arena in DUMBO.
The event was orchestrated by a coalition of many, including the folks behind Only the Blog Knows Brooklyn and outside.in, which bestowed Brooklyn’s crown as America’s blog supreme in May 2007. After video and photo essays showcasing the best of the local pictorial blogs, the evening’s main discussion was entitled “Why Do We Blog?” chaired by Brooklyn Independent Television‘s Megan Donis and featured Jake Dobkin of Gothamist, Anne Pope of Sustainable Flatbush, Tracy Collins of Freakin’ Blog, Sharon Kwik of Bed Stuy Banana (who deserves applause for walking and documenting every single street in Bed-Stuy, with partner and toddler in tow), and Melissa Lopata of Hip Slope Mama.
It’s a good question. The diversity in subject matter and approach seen last night is perhaps symptomatic of the blog-boom experienced all over the interweb, but what was striking about this event is exactly WHY there are hundreds of blogs in and about Brooklyn. How much is there to be said about this place? Why isn’t it exhausted yet – is Brooklyn really more dynamic, diverse or blogworthy than the Bronx, Staten Island, Queens or even Manhattan? What is it about Brooklyn that encourages its residents to be so vocal about it? True, not all of them are about “place” as such, but most are very localized and aware of their immediate community, if not actively trying to discuss and strengthen it. Following outside.in’s pronouncement in 2007, champion BK-blogger and founder of Brownstoner Jonathan Butler, said “Brooklyn in general lends itself to blogging because it’s a borough of neighborhoods. Unlike Manhattan, people feel connected and empowered to do something about the changes happening in their neighborhoods.”
This year the blogfest held a short period of breakout sessions entitled Blogs of a Feather. As suggested by the title, these were small group discussions intended for typological blogs, including Political, Food & Craft, Comedy & Pop Culture, Social Activist, Place, Historic, Photographic, Parenting and Eclectic. The mommy and daddy bloggers had so much to share that it took more than a gentle nudge to usher them from the Powerhouse to the afterparty across the street at Galapagos.
So: does Brooklyn need more bloggers? Gothamist’s Jake Dobkin – who is surely one of relatively few in attendance raking in a healthy profit from localized online publishing - says NO. The man might have a point; a lot of voices make for an incomprehensible Babel, and while it is fantastic that the charismatic physical space of Brooklyn can effect and occupy such a burgeoning virtual space, last night’s event showed that canny networking – singing in chorus, if you like – might be a way to share and provide resources and dialogues more efficiently and actually utilize the networks that blogs establish.
The proceedings of the evening were dedicated to the memory of the late Robert Guskind (1958-2009), true citizen journalist and founder-editor of the Gowanus Lounge (a local blog close to UO hearts and headquarters), and something of a legend in these parts. His online enthusiasm for discussing spatial, developmental and psychogeographical conditions in Brooklyn, and particularly his talent for finding beauty in the unsavory – of which there is plenty in Gowanus and Brooklyn in general – was infectious. A touching video tribute has Bob himself narrating his favorite anecdote about a chopstick warehouse, an illegal Matzo factory and farcical catastrophe. Only in Brooklyn…
NB: To qualify the “bloggiest place” further: Clinton Hill get the prize for highest density of bloggers in a neighborhood, and Atlantic Yards came second in terms of being of interest to the blog-reading public. Research undertaken by outside.in in early 2007, see here and here.
The views expressed are those of the author only and do not reflect the position of Urban Omnibus editorial staff or the Architectural League of New York.