Hyperlocal: is just being there enough?

Location is a key component of what makes a hyperlocal blog a hyperlocal blog – the clue is in the term hyperlocal. The scale of what a hyperlocale is shifts around a lot as you read different academic and practitioner accounts, but that sense of place is very important. Other factors seem to matter too.

For some internet mediation is a key element – hyperlocals are ‘original-newsreporting organizations indigenous to the web’ (Metzgar et al, 2011: p. 774) – although others acknowledge that a hyperlocal might be a website ‘sometimes accompanied by a printed paper’ (Baines, 2010: p. 581-582) and point to earlier, non-web based, uses of the term (Thurman et al, 2011: p2; Berkey-Gerard, 2011: p.3; Baines, 2010 p.581).The general thrust of hyperlocal now, and the activity that has the eye of policy makers in the UK certainly involves online publishing.

Publishing online complicates the notion of space as it relates to hyperlocal as online material is not space-limited: there is no artificial scarcity inherent in the distribution system as there is with newspaper distribution networks or broadcast footprints. As Baines (2010) points out, hyperlocal may be considered to be a product of glocalisation (as opposed to globalisation) – i.e. hyperlocal websites use the global reach of the internet to derive benefits locally, and to amplify local concerns beyond their immediate area. When I think about this amplification I always think of the blogs that reach out from within war zones, to tell us what life is like there and then. There is some resistance to classifying the activity of such bloggers as hyperlocal. Wall (2009) separates warblogs from hyperlocal websites because they are framed so specifically by ‘international news and politics’. For Wall it is not enough to just be there and write about your experiences (and publish them online). By removing warblogs from the hyperlocal space, she is saying  that an implied international audience and the imposition of global politics in the hyperlocale changes the activity of bloggers. They are not, therefore, self defining but are defined by those who receive them.

I find that a rather strange distinction to make: if one writes about ones experience, why should the external reference point of the international media gaze change that practice? Or put more simply: if there was a war in Birmingham tomorrow, would Bournville Village cease being a hyperlocal blog?

References

BAINES, D. (2010) Hyper-local: glocalised rural news. International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy, Vol 30, No 9/10, pp. 581-592.

BERKEY-GERARD, M. (2011) Public Broadcasters Venture into Online Hyperlocal News: A Case Study of Newsworks.org. International Symposium on Online Journalism. Series Public Broadcasters Venture into Online Hyperlocal News: A Case Study of Newsworks.org; City.

METZGAR, E. T., KURPIUS, D. D. & ROWLEY, K. M. (2011) Defining hyperlocal media: Proposing a framework for discussion. New Media & Society, Vol 13, No 5, pp. 772-787.

THURMAN, N. J., PASCAL, J.-C. & BRADSHAW, P. (2011) Can Big Media Do ‘Big Society’?: A Critical Case Study of Commercial, Convergent Hyperlocal News [Online]. SSRN. Available:http://ssrn.com/abstract=1925 [Accessed 23/11/11].

WALL, M. (2009) The Taming of the Warblogs: Citizen Journalism and the War in Iraq. In: ALLAN, S. & THORSEN, E. (eds.) Citizen Journalism: Global Perspectives. New York: Peter Lang.

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Jon Hickman

Hi, I'm Jon. I teach and research digital culture, social media and new media practice at Birmingham City University. Find out more about me with this lovely CV: http://uk.linkedin.com/in/jonhickman Find out about my work at the Birmingham Centre for Media & Cultural Research: http://interactivecultures.org