There are some great independent local websites in Scotland that give their community a voice online. They range from the new MyTuriff (even the Turra Coo has her own Facebook identity), through to the vibrant community voices of Greener Leith and the Gurn from Nurn in Nairn, Denistoun in Glasgow has a superb forum and Edinburgh the excellent journalism-driven Edinburgh Reporter. There’s some marvelous state of the art sites like URTVs Helensborough and Lomond and augmented reality on Visit Turiff. And some good sites about to get going like the Digital Sentinel in Wester Hailes. STV is also in on the act with a small suite of sites.
All these sites show a genuine, grass roots face to the world that is owned or run by local people. In a world that uses Google to find the end of its nose, these independent sites present an engaging, attractive and above all real face to the world online. They feature a diversity of real local voices, rather than being an official outlet. It’s the sort of authenticity that the internet relishes – the antidote to bland tourist brochure-ware, council invest here leaflets, rabid Trip Advisor reviews and general marketing pap.
But I can’t work out if the great sites above are the tip of the iceberg or an exception to the rule. Is there a vast undercurrent of lively community websites about Scotland’s vibrant communities or are there in fact, very few? At Talk About Local we help run a map of UK hyperlocal sites and, despite years of digging away in our spare time and speaking to people who run sites in Scotland, our worry is that the latter may be true. We can find a lot of now elderly, broken or failing sites for Scottish places from the first wave of the web – dating from around ten years ago but they have little scope for interaction nor integration with modern social media. And the voice in these sites is often a slightly ‘official’ one. A simple wordpress.com blog would probably be cheaper and ten times more attractive and effective.
Although unashamedly English, over the last 20 years I have traveled the length and breadth of Scotland for business and pleasure. I’m speaking at an Arts and Humanities Research Council event tomorrow in Edinburgh about so-called hyperlocal media. I shall ask if anyone has ever surveyed the landscape of the scottish local web, should they? Has there ever been a scheme to work with local communities to find their own voice online? Should there be? I’d be interested to hear from commenters on this blog. If you have some sites you’d like to submit to the map we’d be delighted.
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