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July 19, 2010

Homer and Bart need to set up a hyperlocal site in Springfield

Filed under: Featured — andrewchilvers @ 11:43 am

How often do you see Bart, or Homer, online in the Simpsons?

Not that often.

Sounds like a trite point, but bear with me.

Their hometown of Springfield – founded in 1796 by Hans Sprungfeld who travelled west to found the New Sodom – is surely the best known, most perfectly sealed open society in history (totalitarian hell holes like Hoxha’s Albania and Kim Jong Il’s North Korea don’t count).

And the TV show should have its own hyperlocal site run by Marge, hacked into by Bart, rubbished by Homer and monetised by the evil Mr Burns.

I don’t want to spiel forth on proverbial egg sucking, but hyperlocalism is in our midst, is a force for change, a force for good, but belongs in Springfield, the Isle of Wight or even Rockall.

It’s about Krusty the Clown’s antics, about emptying bins, mending cracked pavements, making sure older people don’t freeze to death in the winter. It’s about giving a voice to you and me. All that mundane stuff we fuss about when we live our lives.

It’s NOT about helping central and local governments – and people who run them – to avoid their social responsibilities. It shouldn’t be used as a cost cutting exercise or as cornerstones of grand political campaigns.

Unfortunately, hyperlocalism and the movement for local services and democratic ideals could soon be wholly consumed by David Cameron’s Big Society. Much of this Big Society talk is simple political puff, although I suppose it should be given the benefit of the doubt before the doubt inevitably supersedes the benefits.

But as more local people sign up to Cameron’s movement, they should be mindful of the morass of national political infighting, local political rivalry and hyperlocal bitchfesting that will probably follow.

This is not cynicism for the sake of it. It’s hyper-reality if you like. Ho ho.

Hyperlocalism is in essence a grassroots affair that can be anything and everything. It is anchored in local reality. It’s a celebration of localism. It’s a forum, a panacea and an advertising vehicle, yes, it should be monetised so the people running it can make ends meet.

But, above all, it belongs in Springfield, the Isle of Wight and (if people fancy living there) Rockall.

Yesterday I spoke to Rosie who set up a hyperlocal site in her area of Cheltenham only two months ago. A year ago she knew nothing about hyperlocalism or twitter, now she’s a full time community manager, interviewing local politicians, speaking out about local education issues and encouraging people to enter local charity events. She’s proof that a lot can be done in just two months.

Below she talks about her project.

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