Occasionally I teach at Ryerson. In one of the courses, Information Architecture, we discuss language and audience within information spaces. I use the online Rap Dictionary, a wiki based compendium of hip-hop slang as a discussion reference. It is an example of the role of language enriching group communications and also creating exclusivity that requires special entry points.
During a recent review, several familiar places show up in the list of new terms. For reasons unknown to me, a significant number of neighbhourhoods are showing up in the Rap Dictionary. Toronto, in particular, has many references to neighbourhoods and housing projects. Canadian entries seem disproportionate to one describing US places. Quality and tone varies. Whatever you think about hip hop culture, there is no denying that it is creating new channels of self, group and community image making.
There are entries on Laval and the Plateau in Montreal where I grew up. Regent Park, where I spent several years and still visit, has an entry on Blevins Place, the home of the community association. After leaving there, I spent three years in the Woolner area of the old Borough of York. While working briefly as a CAS community worker, I worked with tenants in Tanridge. Six more years after that in Flemingdon Park. Until recently our family lived in the area of the Esplanade and Crombie Park.
My hope is that some of these neighbourhood chroniclers will grow into significant public voices and tomorrow’s change leaders.