Many thanks to Cathy for trusting me with the keys while she's out of town. I'll try to be as on top of things as she always manages to be. Any feedback will be sincerely appreciated! I'm looking forward to a fun week, since 802 Online tends to cover topics I find fascinating — particularly the development of new media, and the exploration of "Vermont-ness." On that note:
Last week I visited Rural, Vermont. You won't find this burg on the list of the 251 Club (joining info here, courtesy of Dohiyi Mir's NTodd) — it's an online version of a complete yet entirely fictional Vermont town. The site is pretty darn involved, and very "Newhart"-esque. A full cast of characters with made-up names, occupations and photos serves as the starting point for pages of chat rooms, recipes, a literary journal, a bookstore, and links to statewide business associations, events listings, and pending legislation. It hasn't been updated since 1997 or ’98, but when it was first launched it won some community site awards. I thought at first it might have been a gimmick by the VT State Department of Tourism or local chambers of commerce, but it seems to have been fashioned out of whole cloth by Advantage Type & Graphics, a design firm in West Pawlet (now defunct?). They explained why they created the site, and seemed to have big plans for future development. But that was seven or eight years ago. I wonder what happened?
Anyway, this sort of thing strikes me as somewhere between cool and really weird. I mean, it's neat that someone cared enough about what makes Vermont such a nifty place to try to distill it into an online community, but this sort of treatment risks glossing over the real problems of the real people who live here by enveloping visitors in a fog of apple-cider nostalgia. I imagine that if Rural, VT ™ (yup, the phrase is trademarked) had been chartered today, it would have taken the form of a blog. What do you think? Does anyone know of fictional/marketing blogs in Vermont or elsewhere that walk the borderline of the reality-based community? I'm taking bets on how long it will be before Cabot, Ben & Jerry's, or another Vermont-based brand jumps on the bandwagon.