One Year In

I started this blog a year ago with the rather naïve idea that this could be a space for informal, public discussion of some of the issues facing the Hollin Hills community, a space that would supplement the formal work of the civic association bodies. My idea of “informal” public deliberation was informed by many years of research into nongovernmental public deliberation, the idea being that it is not just elected governmental bodies that decide “what should be” in a community but the citizenry itself in its ongoing mullings and deliberations over matters of common concern. I tried to find free software that would allow for multiple and manifold ownership of the website. But I didn’t find any. So I tried to set up the site as a site generically owned by the informal group calling itself the House in the Woods Club. But still, ultimately, only one person could “own” the blog, even though I wanted everyone interested to feel ownership in it. Hence, I listed the byline as Hollin Hills. Later, when it was clear that it was mostly me putting things up, even if authored by other people, I switched the tag line to my own name.

I didn’t intend this site to be an experiment. But it has been one, and not an altogether successful one. The main reason for this is that the issues discussed here — involving our homes, our community, our sense of what is beautiful — touch a lot of nerves. And it’s all too easy to blog or comment when unnerved. So things can be said too forcefully, or unthinkingly. I made some mistakes along these lines – though infinitely less than others have done in recent comments to the site. (I am thinking of Rick Ward’s and David Shultz’s recent, incredibly uncivil comments, which I decided not to delete simply because they stand in testimony of how not to behave in public.) It’s best to discuss difficult things in person, when we see the face of the person being questioned or interrogated. The face of the other person is a great sobering and civilizing factor. One-on-one communication is infinitely better than electronic communication. Civility reigns in person much more than online. Yet the benefit of online communication is that it allows for much wider communication; more of us can meet online than we can in person at specified times and places. To the extent that we can engage in discussing touchy issues in an unprickly way, online communication is a plus. But when it gets touchy and personal, it’s high time to step back. That’s what I’ve learned. Never blog when perturbed.

I’ve been checking in with people to see whether this site is worth continuing, including people who don’t share all my views on things. I am still unsure what is best. Many think it’s worthwhile to have a forum where different issues can be considered and points of view can be expressed. This is a nice counter to all the criticisms I’ve heard over the past year. The criticisms, which I think are all serious misunderstandings, are these: (1) that we are subverting the usual committees and structures of the community; (2) that we are die-hard preservationists who can’t tolerate design innovation; (3) that we value design over community and neighborliness; (4) that we are denigrating the good work of volunteers; and (5) that none of this is any of our business, things were wonderful before we showed up, and now we are tearing apart the community.

In the days ahead, I am going to address these misunderstandings one by one. So please check back in. In the meantime, I continue to welcome lively and vigorous debate on the issues. (And be sure to come to the civic association and SDRC meetings June 14.) I may (or may not) continue to accept uncivil posts to the website, which, again, testify to how not to behave. But please don’t be mean-spirited about my gardening or I don’t know what I’ll do. There’s only so much a gal can take.

your neighbor,
Noelle

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One Response to “One Year In”

  1. Barbara Blandford Helm Says:

    Noelle,

    There have been many aspects of your blog I have found valuable — the photos, the discussions of materials for these houses, and the give and take of the approach to design and review. I have not enjoyed spitefulness from either direction. Why cannot we treat each other the way we ourselves would like to be treated?


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