Apparently, the genre extends beyond Ann Arbor: a suite of critical websites about Seattle motivated the Seattle Post-Intelligencer to write a story about the online dissident culture, “Seattle-bashing takes hold in cyberspace,” concluding:

“Brewster, though, perceives the anti-Seattle sentiment as a self-effacing brand of civic pride. He doesn’t see the Seattle-slamming Web sites as evidence of a city filled with whiny malcontents, but of a strong Internet culture and one marked by hyper-criticism of its institutions, including the “boosterish” local media. Seattle’s economic boom of the 1990s, he pointed out, was spawned by unorthodox thinkers who took a skeptical view of the establishment. […]

Brewster believes the future of Seattle rests on its ability to attract fresh voices, particularly minorities and younger people, to the table. In the ’90s, he said, people were too busy working and making money to think about civic reinvention. The current economic lull, Brewster said, provides a chance for renewal.

“Now there is both the opportunity and the responsibility of shaping this place,” he said. “The question to me is, will it be done by the usual people — the Chamber of Commerce and the business interests — or will it be done by a broader base of people who care about the city?

“Will the people on change the place into something they like and which reflects their values, or would they rather throw darts?” Brewster said.”

The story raises a couple of issues for me: first, if the Seattle Post-Intelligencer could write this long story about a few websites which seem for the most part infrequently updated (, Seattle Shmeng, Sick of Seattle) where’s the Ann Arbor News’ coverage of Ann Arbor’s vibrant online culture? Sure, they mentioned Ann Arbor Is Overrated in their Talk About Town column, but I think the explosive growth in the number of local bloggers in the last six months is a phenomenon worth covering. Then again, would we really want to be celebrated by the “Boosterish” local media as evidence of how great Ann Arbor is? This reminds me of Herbert Marcuse – who famously thought capitalism necessarily co-opted all criticism. Which leads me to my second thought: is online sniping actually a form of civic pride, as claimed by the man quoted in the SPI story above? I think his question: whether the online critics will play a role in changing the city remains to be seen in Ann Arbor, although I intend to do more than throw darts.

Author: Rob