Comparing two city photoblogs

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City Photoblogs: &

(Leigh Ann)

As part of the background research to our “cultural tracker” project, we wanted to get an insight into how pictures are being used to capture and share cultural heritage from perspective of the resident. For this reason I decided to choose two city-photoblogs, one from my hometown (well, almost), Greenville, SC, and one from my current town, Turku, Finland. Finding the appropriate blogs was challenging. The process of selecting my two examples, and, has revealed to me that the majority of unofficial city-photoblogs are hard to find, if one does not have a specific site in mind. This has led me to the conclusion that unofficial city-photoblogs are published for self-gratification and/or the education and/or enjoyment of a target audience who knows how to find them. At this point, I would like to exclude major cities from this argument, since they are on a different playing field, and limit this discussion to small-midsized towns/cities (around 500,000 residents or less). Based on the trouble I had finding both of these blogs (albeit much more trouble with the Turku one, probably for language reasons), I would argue that, even if the idea behind the blogs is to promote each city to outsiders, the actual audience for both of these photoblogs are local.

The blog was started by a middle-aged couple who lives in downtown Greenville, South Carolina, USA. As the couple has moved away from the city now, some of their friends maintain the blog, adding a photo every day. The pictures tell a general story about the city: traditions, nature, uniqueness, highlighting seasonal activities. Immediately when I scrolled through the blog I felt a pang of homesickness. For me, this confirms that the blog is effective at commanding the appreciation of locals. The blog presents the city as an eco-friendly, healthy town that is perfect for families, nightlife, culture and fun. Because of this aspect, the blog could also be suitable for advertising to a potential future resident. As a near ex-resident myself, it is hard to judge the blog as an outsider. However, in my opinion the blog is a beautiful representation of the city. It is honest in what it portrays, although it conveniently refrains from showing poverty, slums, or unattractiveness. These negative aspects are not the goal of the blog. Instead, the bloggers seem to want to capture the positive (what seems positive through their eyes) aspects of their town. The “everyday” feel to the blog leads the viewer to believe that the sights shown could be seen at just about any given time on a walk through town.

The blog is kept by a resident of Turku. The blogger’s purpose is to record their hometown through pictures, much like that of Also, like the previous blog, the city is portrayed in a positive light.

There are a few key differences in the blogs, however. The Greenville blog mainly uses objects to convey meaning about the city. For example, a group of cyclists or a sign about biking shows the town is eco-friendly. The Turku blog predominantly uses scenes to relate the vibe of the city. There are many street views and scenes of the river. The earlier posts, starting in September 2012, are more event-oriented, but the most recent photos added are almost all scenic. Bicycles and bike paths surely appear in the Turku photos, but merely as part of the larger scene.

The main difference in the two blogs is the layout. While the Greenville one specifically features one photo per day, occasionally allowing for two to show a different angle, the Turku blog posts many pictures at once, one on top of another. Many of the pictures have little to no text in the Turku blog, so even if I could read everything in Finnish, there would not be much to read. The Greenville blog has very little text as well, but seems to at least address each photo in some way. The Greenville blog is more viewer-friendly.

Both of these photoblogs give great insight into how residents see their own cities – what things are worth taking a picture of to remember and share with others. In our group project of making a culture tracker for Turku, if we want to include residents in our product, it would be helpful to be mindful of the points that analyzing these two blogs has rendered. Since these are just two examples of city photoblogs, further study would need to be done to draw concrete conclusions about resident behavior in photo sharing. However, these blogs offer a good starting point for consideration on the topic.

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