Ecotone topic: Time and Place

After much lurking and hanging back, I’ve decided that it’s time to post something for this week’s Ecotone topic, “Time And Place.” Even as I’ve fallen behind on writing in my own place blog, I’ve been thinking about the affect the practice of place blogging can have on perceptual pace. If a weblog has been defined as a “website organized by time,” then it makes sense to define a place blog as a weblog organized by place. What this offers is a writing medium that encourages a regular encounter with the ordinary places we inhabit.

As Mitchell Thomashow has pointed out in his book Bringing the Biosphere Home: Learning to Perceive Global Environmental Change, it’s difficult for us to develop a deep sense of place when we don’t modulate the pace of our perception, if we only experience places at the pace of a car or an airplane and not at the pace of walking or biking. It would appear that the Internet also seems to be part of the problem; as the “information superhighway,” it tends to provides us with vast amounts of information in a very short time.

So if the web is going to help us develop a deeper sense of place, it seems we need to find ways to use in such a way that we can modulate our perceptual pace; instead of settling only for the metaphor of the information superhighway, we need to cultivate “information walkways” on the web, ways of using that web that counteract the furious pace and disorienting vastness of cyberspace. Does place blogging provide way of being online that slows us down perceptually and fosters more attention to place? Or is it like attempting to walk or bike on an interstate: it will either get you run over or arrested?

If the writing of Ecotone bloggers is any indication, it appears that place blogging creates a rhetorical rhythm between life online and life in places. The ease of publishing that characterizes the weblog facilitates daily writing, and by extension, daily observation, and because weblogs are online, the production of local knowledge can be shared either with those next door or those in the next country.

Of course, blogging about place does not necessarily or automatically alter our perceptual pace, but its seemingly built-in focus on both place and time does seem to help those of us trying to pay closer attention to where we are.