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PERSPECTIVES ON PLACE

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Shopping Wherever, Living Wherever

A recent Boston Globe piece claims that "shopping's social value fading for those online". . . . Think about this new data alongside (a) the Manitowoc, WI example I looked at in this blog last December (rust belt downtown revitalized by internet sales behind brick storefronts); (b) the trend toward growth centers/downtowns here in Vermont and elsewhere (Is Manitowoc the exception or the new rule?; if the former, will our downtowns become less about commerce and more about residential uses and other non-economic uses?); (c) with commerce and other economic activities moving online, are we not seeing a trend toward "resortification" in otherwise non-resort zones?  That is, if the internet is making location-neutral the norm, and technology is enabling all manner of environmental/amenity restoration (mining towns becoming mountain biking towns; cities rebuilding waterfronts and wetlands; Denver's South Platte River kayak course), are we not heading toward a new "resort age," where the American dream has morphed into a desire to live in a place not because of a job site or economic opportunity and the associated benefits (a quarter-acre lot and 3 BR cape)  but because of the non-economic opportunities that rise to the surface now that commerce/work can happen anywhere, anytime?


John Fox

One has to wonder, though, what this trend is doing to notions of "place" and people's sense of connection. The ability of some people to live anywhere could either lead to them choosing communities they can truly become part of and connect to...or - as seems more prevalent - can lead to the equivalent of online shopping as described here - consuming place without the corresponding "inconvenience" of genuine immersion in and commitment to the history, traditions and values of community (let alone actual social interaction). It's the customized experience. We throw up gates, get the news we want, the views we want, put some things in our shopping cart and delete others: "myspace.com."

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