Posted October 3rd 2011 at 3:48 pm by
in Media Mindfulness

Where have YOU been?

It’s a common experience: You realize you’re running a marathon to nowhere. You’ve forgotten why you’re running and where it ends; you can’t slow down to find out; and, despite its map function, your trusty iPhone seems to be making the problem worse.

Late last spring I sensed that this site might be on a mindless, endless marathon.  I founded CoLab Radio about two years ago, and manage it with the help of CoLab colleagues and some committed volunteers.  Although the project started with thought-through values and ethics, it was becoming harder and harder to remember what they were, or whether they’d changed after two years of publishing posts.

I reached a low point in June when I published a summer reading list for city planners. There is nothing inherently wrong with a summer reading list, but I did it for all of the wrong reasons.  I knew the concept would create some buzz on Twitter and that we’d get a bump in web traffic. I knew that a blog with an .mit.edu web address would be trusted with a reading list. But in the end, I published a haphazard list of books, most of which I hadn’t read, and failed to make any real sense of the recommendations. There was no real project behind the post, I didn’t honor the books with thoughtful reviews by the contributors who endorsed them, and no real community — physical or intellectual — stood behind the post.  Clever use of fonts and bullets doesn’t substitute thought, and a list of Twitter accounts doesn’t equal participation.

In my opinion, it’s better to fall apart than to chug along mindlessly. It’s hard to pick up the pieces of something if you spend all of your time holding them together with whatever glue you can find at whatever moment. So we’ve been on a bit publishing hiatus as we try to ensure a thoughtful, meaningful urban planning blog.

We have some things in the works at CoLab Radio.  We’ve got an amazing cohort of new contributors who will be documenting places and planning issues that we haven’t covered yet.  We’re exploring new ways to support bloggers and to encourage collaboration among them.  We’re working on a multi-city pop-up art show, discussing a monthly radio show with a partner planning blog, and developing a new site design.  We’re talking through a framework for a CoLab Radio Thinkers Group.  We’re focused on developing series concepts that enable those committed to improving cities and towns, no matter where they are, to share their ideas and work.  We’re figuring out which of our roots we should go back to, and which we should rework as we grow and change.

One of the first posts CoLab Radio ever published was a Race & the Construction of the Modern Labor Market reading list.  Now there’s a list to be proud of.  Professor Phil Thompson, a man who’s given innumerable hours thinking, reading, and working on this topic, put this list together.

I’m not sure where all this will take CoLab Radio, but I hope you’re here to see it, or to join in on the making of it.

Post by Alexa Mills.

2 responses to “Where have YOU been?”

  1. Stefanie says:

    I love this honest assessment of where CoLab Radio is and where it’s going. I know the feeling of chugging along without knowing where you’re going and then wondering later why you got there. This post makes me think I should take a step back and think about how to be more strategic in my own work. This candor is one of the reasons that I love following CoLab Radio. To me it seems like a blog constantly in growth, ready to evolve and adapt to the changing world around it. I’m looking forward to the new site design!

  2. Doroth says:

    IIt’s a narrow path we read between identifying this bloggi problem and correcting it. It would be easy, having discovered that diversity weakened its power, to overspecialize in a single idea. One would hope you could determine a well defined area that acts as an umbrella sheltering topics that might appear at first to be unrelated but are seen on on reflection to fit nicely into the focus.

    As an example your series on chairs can be found to illustrate a common problem that plagues cities all over the place. Readers just need to be reminded of the common focus regularly, so that they can continue in a narrative that you will have identified at the beginning

    Conratulations on your insight.