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My Saturday afternoon at Postopolis! | DesignNotes by Michael Surtees

My Saturday afternoon at Postopolis!

Postopolis! at the Storefront for Art and Architecture

Postopolis! was nothing less than a five day marathon for those interested in blogs and architecture/urbanism/design. I could only imagine how the four main blog people (BLDGBLOG (Los Angeles), City of Sound (London), Inhabitat (New York City), and Subtopia (San Francisco)) were able to maintain their questions and presentations over the week. I was following online each day though I was only able to watch in person for Saturday which was the last day of the conference. I was there from 2 pm to 6.30 pm and was exhausted afterwards. So for individuals to be there on a consistent basis for a span of five days is truly a feat. As Keller Easterling referred to the heat inside the Storefront for Art and Architecture – it’s like Baptist Church in here.

I’ve learned from experience of planning design talks that one should expect the unexpected. I’m not sure how much advance notice Postopolis! had that presenter Mark Wigley (Dean of Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation) would be unable to be in NYC at the time, but the group managed to pull off a decent phone interview that was audible to everyone that attended. It ended up being mostly a moderated discussion with each of the four Postopolis! organizers asking questions and at the end one audience member. I won’t try to summarize his talk but will point out some of the more interesting notes that I wrote down between the moderators and Mark.
· talked about breaking the limits (blogs) or/vs becoming and expensive xerox machine – are people looking for duplications or trying to do something different
· the risk of breaking the limits is that you bring in the idiots – more in the context of the comments that follow a post – that reminds me of the Op-Art piece of a diagram of a blog that Paula Scher did
· brilliance vs stupidity – again about challenging the fine line of ideas
· the question of blogs influence came up, who has more – a blog that a lot of people read and talk about or a professors book that sits on a shelf that no one reads – but then the question became: 1. what type of influence – effecting people or popularity – or in Mark’s position influence is if it changes the discourse 10 years from now
· email – there’s no barrier for communication like face to face
· a blog allows someone to step out of the marketplace, time for thought and reflection

I’ll be honest, I don’t have any notes from the second presenter. It wasn’t that Keller Easterling (Associate Professor, Yale University School of Architecture) talk wasn’t interesting, it was more of something that I just took in about how important blogs are.

Many times I’ve talked about my dislike for design magazines in general, but I’ll have to give credit to Randi Greenberg of www.metropolismag.com. She was quite enthusiastic and appreciative of all the traffic that blogs bring to the site that she oversees. Here are some of my notes from her moderated talk.
· the readership is considerably more online then the print magazine of Metropolis
· article’s life is extended on the site, a number of Inhabitat posts were cited that brought attention that the articles would never have seen
· the print side people seem to be more interested in finding out who the readers are and why they are reading a particular article
· on the writing side there’s the perception and reality that the web offers a way for new writers to start out, and that the print side is still where the money is
· the question of image use came up – is it bad to pull from a website? the consensus was that if your using the image to actually promote an article that you are linking to, it’s probably not that bad – though the line is still very gray at best
· Subtopia asked a brilliant question to Randi – had there been any consideration of letting a number of bloggers know ahead of time about a particular subject that the magazine was going to cover and then essentially do a group talk about it once the particular article came out

I’m familiar w/ Archinect or so I thought, a lot of the contributors of the site talked about their experiences. Ironically I’ve never looked for any of the names of contributors to that site so I was surprised to see quite a range of people talking in front of me. Ok if there’s on gripe of that site, I wish they would redesign the home page, I find it way too cluttered, once you’re inside it’s easy to read and understand. Of all the architecture sites out there, Archinect has a lot of power to influence (I think this is where the question of influence was rooted when asked to Mark). The thing was, the contributors didn’t hit anyone over the head with arrogance suggesting that they were part of a select club. In a sense the site continually refreshes itself with new contributors that want to be there. The influence comes from the community that is based around the discussion, and in turn people get a lot of learning from it. Now from hearing all of them speak I’ll be paying closer attention to their site.

The final discussion of the day was the Blogger open house (George Agnew, Alec Appelbaum, Abe Burmeister, John Hill, Ryan McClain, Miss Representation, Aaron Plewke, Enrique Ramirez, Quilian Riano, Chad Smith). I thought this was a great way to end everything, it allowed some more familiar and less familiar blogs a forum to explain what they’re all about.
· it seemed like they all did it for various reasons, though there were some similarities: on the question of having an editor most welcomed the idea of it – if for no other reason to clean up grammar
· on web traffic again there was an unexpected similarity, whether if they posted something or not, the traffic stayed fairly consistent, of course keeping in mind that there were traffic spikes occasionally
· other questions asked included the lack of female participants though the audience seemed to be fairly gender mixed, the lack of ethnic diversity and wealth
· miss representation was a dude – I certainly had no idea
· for those that live in Edmonton, aggregät 4/5/6 gets a lot of hits from the capital of Alberta and where I had been living for the last ten years – though he’s not sure why that is – perhaps it comes from madeinedmonton.org members?

Like I mentioned before I only was able to attend the last day in person, but like all things blog there’s talk before an event, during an event and even more discussion after the event. I’ll be interested to see how the discussion follows and how Postopolis! evolves next year if there is something done again. I was thinking about who the audience for something like this is. I think it would be a mistake to not go b/c you’re not an architect or urban planner which I am neither of. When you distill something like this from my pov, it’s trying to understand how to communicate something and events like this help the dialogue of that.

and here’s some of my pics the day on flickr

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