Neighborland: the social media tool for Baltimore's community activists - Baltimore


Dec. 27, 2012 8:30 am

Neighborland: the social media tool for Baltimore’s community activists

It's a site to hear from the latest civic projects.

Combining elements of Facebook and Reddit, Neighborland allows city residents to pitch and post potential civic works projects and comment on others’ ideas by voting their approval or disapproval.

The Neighborland-Baltimore site features a number of resident-backed proposals dating to July 2, when the Baltimore version of the site soft-launched, along with 25 other city sites, said co-founder Dan Parham by e-mail. Popular among those proposals are calls for more robust public transportation in this city, but support from people is meager: just 27 people have signed on to a request for a Charm City Circulator route through Hampden.

Neighborland itself is the brainchild of New Orleans artist Candy Chang, who started a physical version of the site in 2010 when she posted nametag-like stickers on abandoned buildings that read “I wish this was ______.”

After launching in New Orleans and several other cities, including Washington, D.C., New York and Los Angeles, Neighborland recently “soft launched … everywhere in the U.S.,” said Parham.

Want to build something with Neighborland, developers? Here’s the site’s API.

It remains to be seen what change a local petition site could bring in Baltimore city, since Neighborland petitions can be ignored. (Unlike White House petitions, which require a response once they hit 25,000 signatures, like this one clamoring for construction of a federally-funded Death Star.)

Although after users appealed to the New Orleans Regional Transit Authority to release its GPS data so people could make apps showing when the next bus would arrive, the local city councilmember threw her office behind the request. And now mayors in cities nationwide are using Neighborland to drum up support for gun control measures following the shooting massacre in Newtown, Conn.


Perhaps, then, in the movement to make the Internet the modern-day equivalent of Athens’ Ecclesia—the place to not only join together, but also leak classified information, topple governments and fell unwitting representatives who forget about Twitter’s direct message function—Neighborland is the rebuttal to Robert Putnam’s fears of a world in which we really are bowling alone.

Andrew Zaleski

Andrew Zaleski is a freelance journalist outside Washington, D.C. He's written for Wired, Backchannel, Popular Science, Fortune, the Washington Post Magazine, the Atlantic and elsewhere.

  • Guest

    Seems overstated to say that support for the Hampden transportation is “meager” at just 27 (now 29) when there seem to be so few people from Baltimore on Neighborland. The highest number on any item I saw was 44 and that is for increasing all public transportation. It stands to reason that only fraction of those people would be interested in helping Hampden specifically.


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