Archive for Monday, September 8, 2008

Digital identity: Lawrence as seen through the electronic eyes of

September 8, 2008


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The Third Planet, a downtown shop that sells Pink Floyd lunch boxes and various forms of hemp, is the most prominent retailer in Lawrence.

Ghosty - a group of six Lawrence-based indie rockers - are the largest celebrities in the city. Massachusetts Street is no longer historic or quaint but rather is a "wonderful Bohemia." And the political mood of the community is dominated by anarchy.

That's the plot line of Lawrence's newest visitors guide listing.

No, the Chamber of Commerce didn't write that one.

That's courtesy of MySpace, the popular social networking site that has become the new information currency for millions of members of the 20-something or teenage sets.

When that generation sets out for a new locale, they don't limit themselves to their grandfather's type of information gathering - convention and visitors bureau listings, blurbs by Rand McNally or a AAA rating.

No, they also get on MySpace, Facebook or another one of the growing number of social networking sites.

"When I go to other places to visit, I usually look at those sites to see what's going on," said Amanda Coon, an Overland Park sophomore at Kansas University. "That's the way to really see what there is to do. More people are doing that all the time."


What's Lawrence's MySpace story? That's probably debatable because it is not so simple as just reading an all-encompassing narrative about the city.

Instead, it takes a little interpretation. So here's the little social experiment I did - and you can decide whether the result is an interesting discovery or just a mess on the laboratory floor: I typed the phrase "Lawrence Kansas" into MySpace's internal search engine, and then looked at the top 100 results. (Note: The listings constantly change based on the number of hits pages receive and other factors. I searched on Tuesday.) I looked for trends and general impressions.

In summary, this is what I found: We love our music and we love our counterculture. Simplistic perhaps, but is it entirely off-base?

"That sounds pretty accurate to me," Coon said.

Unique Lawrence

Here are some of the highlights of what the search turned up:

¢ Of the top 40 listings, 25 were profiles of Lawrence bands or reviews of music events that occurred in Lawrence. The overall No. 1 listing was a profile of the Lawrence-based band Ghosty, which had been viewed 75,690 times.

¢ Third Planet Imports, 846 Mass., is the first Lawrence retailer profile that is listed. It checked in at No. 14. It featured the description, "We smell good for a bunch of hippies."

¢ The idea of hippies and counterculture in Lawrence was found nearly everywhere in the results. The Kings of the Plains, a punk-rock band based in Lawrence, used its site to describe the city as "a longtime oasis for counter-culture in the principally conservative area." Fatso's, 1016 Mass. - which at No. 44 was the first drinking establishment in the results - described Lawrence as a "wonderful Bohemia." And then there were the anarchists. Lawrence's top 100 listings featured not one, but two, anarchist sites. One - the Solidarity Revolutionary Center - ranked No. 28 on the list. The listing seems to be paying off. The center uses its page to ask for $120 donations to help the organization pay for its office space at 1109 Mass. According to the site, it has raised about $11,000.

¢ Based on the search results, the most important piece of nonmusic-related video in the city was of the microburst in March 2006. The video - titled "Tornado footage at Checkers grocery store" - was the No. 5 listing. It showed the "tornado" blowing approximately a half-dozen shopping carts across the parking lot. The storm video, however, has some unlikely competition. The Butt Farm in Lawrence by Barry Washboard Barnes and the Bongo Furies was the No. 9 ranked listing. It is a MySpace version of a dissertation, and no, it is not about cigarette butts and the city's smoking ban.

Important audience

Also interesting, though, is what doesn't show up in the listings. What many think of as Lawrence's bread-and-butter calling card for national attention - Jayhawk basketball - was scarcely found.

Other traditional tourism selling points - such as James Naismith, Langston Hughes or Lawrence's Civil War history - were far from prominent.

But there are signs that some of Lawrence's traditional image-builders are starting to take advantage of MySpace. KU's Spencer Museum of Art, 1301 Miss., has an active MySpace page. Lawrence Arts Center, 940 N.H., also made the top 100.

More of Lawrence's heavyweight organizations may be on the way. Although there is a KU MySpace page, it is not one created by KU and the page did not make the top 100. But Jack Martin, deputy director of university communications, said KU is serious about using alternative forms of media to reach prospective students or alumni.

About two weeks ago, the university launched its first YouTube channel, which now features about 30 videos of KU-related activities. Martin said that just this week discussions began about creating a Facebook page for the university.

"We definitely can see that if people are wanting to take a trip to Lawrence or want to go to school in Lawrence that they're going to be curious and will use whatever means they have to find out more," Martin said. "Before, they maybe used to ask a friend who had a cousin who lived in Lawrence. Now, they get on one of these sites."

Judy Billings, director of the Lawrence Convention and Visitors Bureau, said her organization also is exploring ways to have a presence on the social networking sites.

"We definitely need to be reaching out to that age group," Billings said.

Mayor Mike Dever agrees. He said the fact that Lawrence already seems to have a strong music reputation on MySpace is something the city could build upon and promote. He said city government could even explore having KU interns or other technology-savvy volunteers create a city page that would highlight some of Lawrence's hip attractions.

"I mean, let's face it, the next great idea that comes along probably will come from somebody who is in their early 20s today," Dever said. "As a community, we need to be on their radar if we hope to have a business relationship with them or draw them here."


Gina Bailey-Carbaugh 9 years, 8 months ago

I cannot understand how Chad missed so many profiles with KU names. Even Big Jay has a MySpace! And, of course, no mention of the local radio stations MySpaces, either. Here's mine, too.

Cliff Davis 9 years, 8 months ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

audvisartist 9 years, 8 months ago

I'm the largest celebrity in the city... weighing in at 275lbs and having had my music on MTV and winning the American Idol Underground electronic music competition in 2006. Too bad nobody knows about me. But sheesh I'm hard to miss!

Mike Blur 9 years, 8 months ago

The annoying thing about Facebook is that when joining, you must declare a network. That's not bad in itself, but what's bad is Lawrence Kansas does not have its own network! Lawrencians must choose between the Topeka network (ick) and Kansas City Missourah (barf). Maybe one of these days Lawrence will rate its own network with the facebook powers that be!

Cliff Davis 9 years, 8 months ago

One has to wonder what algorithm myspace uses to place profiles at the top of their search results. I'd never heard of Ghostly before this article came out. Here's our little space in the digital world: LONG LIVE THRASHGRASS!

lounger 9 years, 8 months ago

Don't forget the best spaced out Sonwriters in town..... Space Station Lounge

Zype 9 years, 8 months ago

"Ghosty - a group of six Lawrence-based indie rockers - are the largest celebrities in the city."Funny.I've never heard of any of them or their band.

jcantspell 9 years, 8 months ago

The Buttfarm Haaaaaaaaaaa hahahaha ha ha ha ha HO He He He HA HA ha HA Haaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

americandreamrealty 9 years, 8 months ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

americandreamrealty 9 years, 8 months ago

it's interesting how the internet makes possible an alternate identity for a geographical area and basically adds another layer to our perception of that line with everybody else, feel free to see my page too:

lounger 9 years, 8 months ago

Don't forget the best spaced out Songwriters in town..... Space Station Lounge

Bob-RJ Burkhart 9 years, 8 months ago

Why NOT do a follow-up "social network analysis" (SNA) about adverse impacts (on NE-Kansas community attitudes) from our persistent conversations that seem to sanction INtolerence rather than INTERdependence?Baseline SNA algorithm: Preview results from these keywords ... "Quantrill's Raid" Lawrence Kansas Massacre 2008 with Google or another search engine.@

Ragingbear 9 years, 8 months ago

Oh boy. The LJW has discovered The Internet.Soon, they will be discovering things like chat rooms. Then they will make a Pulitzer level discovery.... Headline: Pornography rampant on The Internet.

Thinking_Out_Loud 9 years, 8 months ago

Uh, Gina, Chad wrote his methodology into the piece. He ~explained~ how he missed "so many profiles with KU names."

George_Braziller 9 years, 8 months ago

Oh tumbilweed you really hit that one on he head! I've only been to Replay about three times but once I actually urinated in the alley behind because it was cleaner than the men's restroom. I also didn't have to risk ruining my shoes from the floor flood of other guys who had bad aim.

Bob-RJ Burkhart 9 years, 8 months ago

p> blogger feedback (so far) indicates having a "shared sense of place" is another driving factor in cultivating REAL WORLD "peer mentoring" relationships ... During a recent I-35 "Prairie Passage" from Lawrence to Norman, OK ... I read the Wednesday USA Today Forum (9/10/2008) about "Dumbing Down" of online journalism.Further "future thoughts" are posted here:

Bob-RJ Burkhart 9 years, 8 months ago

As our INTERdependent nation pauses to reflect on "Patriot's Day" we might assess how effectively we collectively exercise our "Freedom of Influence" (Fifth Freedom) ... Plugging in, tuning out - Opinion - USATODAY.comSep 10, 2008 ... You may also submit commentaries to The Forum, USA TODAY's op-ed page, by e- Mailto ... Please consult our guidelines. ...

easmith14 9 years, 8 months ago

Lawhorn has his finger on the pulse of everything hip and trendy....and then he uses those fingers to type awesome articles....Thanks Lawhorn!!!!

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