"People like to be told what they know. People look for the familiar. They want to see what's comfortable and they want to be assured that the world is like they think it is," Moriarty says. "Well, they're fucking wrong. It's not. It's always changing and it's always evolving. So when I see something that no one else is doing . . . Why not?"

By pure coincidence, Kimber Lanning was on the same train as Moriarty while she filmed the latest episode of "The Train Tracks," a series of music videos by local bands performed and videotaped on the light rail.

Like Moriarty, Lanning is utilizing social-media tools to promote her projects around town — and there is much more than the Train Tracks. Lanning manages Modified Arts on Roosevelt, a local music Web site called Silverplatter (www.silverplatter.info), is the chair of Local First AZ, a nonprofit organization working to support local businesses, and still finds time to ring up Wilco CDs and copies of Juxtapoz magazine at Stinkweeds, the record store she owns on Camelback Road. Lanning has made sure each of these projects has a Twitter account.

Jeff Moriarty
Jamie Peachey
Jeff Moriarty

Details

Phoenix's online community is constantly changing and growing. To find out more about how local people are using social media to "tweet-up" at various events around the Valley, follow these social media evangelists on Twitter (www.twitter.com):
Jeff Moriarty: Founder of Improv AZ, Ignite Phoenix, and Phoenix Innovation Foundation 
twitter.com/jmoriarty
Evo Terra: Founder of "East Valley Friday Nights"
twitter.com/evo_terra
Roger Williams: Founder of Ignite Phoenix
twitter.com/halfacat
Kimber Lanning: Chair of Local First AZ, owner at Stinkweeds Records and Modified Arts
twitter.com/kimberlanning
Brandon Franklin: Ignite volunteer and taiko drum enthusiast
twitter.com/brandonfranklin

Ignite Phoenix 5 will be held from 6 to 9 p.m. November 3 at Tempe Center for the Arts from 6 to 9. For information on attending or submitting your idea for a presentation, visit www.ignite-phoenix.org.
• Do you have the urge to drop your pants on the light rail? Improv AZ may be the right social circle for you. Check out the improvised fun at improvaz.com.
"East Valley Friday Nights" is just one of several Friday-night meet-ups happening every week. For more information about showing up and hanging out, visit the event's site.

As of press time, Modified Arts had 495 followers. Stinkweeds had 433. Given that there are 4.3 million people in metropolitan Phoenix (and the amount of those people on Twitter is a mere fraction of that number) the amount of people following Lanning's tweets is minuscule. Still, she's happy with the results she's seen.

"If I get a record in early, I can tweet about it and have 20 people show up before closing," Lanning says.

But Lanning will be the first to tell you that she's "not great at stuff like Twitter and Facebook yet." She's not alone.

With Local First AZ, Lanning has organized classes to teach local businesses how to get an account with Twitter, MySpace, and Facebook and why they might benefit from having them, but it hasn't been easy, she says.

"There's some people who have mastered [social media] already, and the rest of us are out here swimming for our lives," Lanning says. "We still have business owners in Local First who struggle with e-mail."

Lanning also e-mailed the businesses in Local First to persuade them to download an iPhone application designed to help users find local businesses. It's a great idea, but it would have been easier to implement had all the businesses understand the term "iPhone application."

"There will be people left behind," Lanning says. "I view our role as a nonprofit to teach them and bring them along with the rest of us."

As for giving Phoenix a sense of identity, her outlook is realistic.

"We stand a chance of uniting the creative community [which she defines as everyone from artists to architects and Web developers], no question, but do we stand a chance of connecting with that guy across the way that's a third-generation cobbler? Do I think that me and Jeff [Moriarty] tweeting about events is going to connect to him, probably not."

In August, Lanning saw some of the creative community united by social media when she attended the first "Light Rail Friday Nights." Organizers including raillife.com, a local blog about the light rail, and cenphotv.com, an online news show about central Phoenix, and others began tweeting about "Light Rail Friday Nights" only five days before the event was scheduled. Even with such short notice, 65 people showed up.

They started at Monti's La Casa Vieja in Tempe, picking up people along the way, until arriving at the Roosevelt station in central Phoenix. It was precisely the type of social interaction Lanning hopes will come about as a result of social media.

"The only thing that I'm excited about with regard to social media is that it might encourage people to show up and actually interact. I'm not at all excited about more sterile interaction while you're sitting on your couch at home watching television."

To illustrate her point, she recalls the days when high school students would head to Stinkweeds after school to hang out, something she rarely sees these days.

"I think peoples' social skill sets are changing," she says. "Their priorities are changing. Their attention spans are changing and I'm not convinced it's for the better."


"Where you go when you die is an age-old question. Here's the answer: Seventh Avenue and Jefferson."

A young woman named Stacy Holmstedt is standing onstage at Tempe Center for the Arts. She's tall, has long red hair, and she smiles nervously as she delivers the punch line to her joke, a reference to location of the county morgue. Holmstedt describes what happens to a corpse as if she were dishing some juicy gossip she'd just heard. She speaks about how bodies are drained of their fluids and describes in frighteningly intimate detail how morticians wire jaws shut to prevent the body's escaping gases from stimulating the vocal cords and scaring the hell out of a funeral party.

This is Holmstedt's passion, inherited from her mother, who worked at a mortuary, and it's a hit with the Ignite Phoenix 4 crowd.

Before there was an Ignite Phoenix, there was a question in the minds of Brady Forrest of O'Reilly Media (a tech-focused publisher) and Bre Pettis of Etsy.com (a Web site that allows people to sell handmade products). They wanted to know what people would say if they had five minutes and a slideshow (containing 20 slides that advance every 15 seconds) to speak about their passion. They started getting answers at the first Ignite, held in 2006 in Seattle. Presentations included such topics as cup noodles, how to make samurai swords, the history of fonts, and whether you should quit your day job and start a rock band.

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4 comments
Seth
Seth

There's already a mass culture of stupidity and aggressiveness in Phoenix. The superhero fight lands on the stupid side.

Scott
Scott

What #1 said!!!

El Matho
El Matho

What I find most interesting is that that one dude is 33 and he was an engineer for 18 years. That's some Doogie Howser ish right there.

KarlBob
KarlBob

Interesting article, but there's a difference between an arts community and a civic culture. Getting people out of their houses and interacting is a great way to foster a cultural identity, but if that identity is going to reach beyond "CenPho hipsters" to "Valley residents", it will have to involve those of us who don't buy vinyl at record stores, or visit trendy bars to congratulate ourselves after "spooking the straights". As Kimber Lanning pointed out, third-generation cobblers are as much a part of Phoenix as trendy scenesters. Events attracting nurses and auto mechanics as well as Web designers and sculptors would stand the best chance of creating a cultural identity for all of Metro Phoenix.

 
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