2008 06 16
Reading Toronto To Rebuild
Reading Toronto launched on March 30th, 2005. Its objective—to give the city's exceptional creative producers an online forum, one they could use to describe Toronto in new, revealing ways. On the "about" page we wrote:
Reading Toronto looks at the city through the eyes of many of its most creative artists and arts institutions. The growing ubiquity of high-speed Internet connections allows visitors from around the globe to experience the city in ways never before possible. More than that, they can contribute their own stories, experiences, and ideas about Toronto. As descriptions of the city accumulate, we expect that new ways of reading Toronto will emerge.

The effort was worth it. RT offered Toronto-related stories from brilliant contributors like Gary Michael Dault, Amy Lavender Harris, Piers Handling, Margaret Atwood, Anne Michaels, Cory Doctorow, Alexander Pilis, Bernie Miller, Jeanne Randolph, Ian Chodikoff, Jeremy Keehn, Johnson Chou, Lloyd Alter, Mark Kingwell, Matthew Teitelbaum, Michael Anton Dila, Paul Raff, Steve Mann, Vera Frenkel, and many, many more. Their contributions alone make this site a worthy project.

But Reading Toronto is a more than an online compilation of stories about Toronto, it's an experiment too. Why? 21st Century cities are by extension if not by full practice digital cities. The people whose job it is to shape those cities are in subtle, ongoing collaboration with the people who use them. That collaboration can be improved by increasing the information feedback between city users and city designers. If we look under the hood, that's the relationship we were experimenting with here. Ultimately, the technology—or our mastery of it—never reached as far as we hoped. We did, however, have some notable successes. The spirit of collaboration and information feedback reached impressive levels when RT brought together hundreds of people who wanted to make the T.T.C.'s website better. We were the catalyst, but the city's user groups, if I can appropriate that term from the software world, were the engine behind the change. The episode in RT's history is a case study on how user-generated content can improve a city's infrastructure.

Over the past three years other online blogging voices have made themselves heard as well. Spacing.ca, blogto.com, and torontoist.com are among the preferred sources of information on Toronto's events, culture, design, and politics. We've promoted them on our home page almost from the start because their work is so good, representing the best blogging content around.

With the city's online reporting in such good hands, Reading Toronto is taking some time off to work on a new experiment. We think it will be a next-generation social amenity for city dwellers. Stay tuned.

If you want to get in touch with us, please continue to use the contact link above.

Robert Ouellette

Editor, Reading Toronto
[email this story] Posted by R Ouellette on 06/16
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