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Artisans -- Oregon -- Portland, Portland (Or.) -- Commerce, Portland (Or.) -- Economic conditions, Artisans, Economic history, Oregon -- Portland


Portland, Oregon (USA) has become known for an artisanal or ‘maker’ economy that relies on a resurgence of place specificity (Heying), primarily expressed and exported to a global audience in the notion of ‘Portland Made’ (Roy). Portland Made reveals a tension immanent in the notion of ‘place’: place is both here and not here, both real and imaginary. What emerges is a complicated picture of how place conceptually captures various intersections of materiality and mythology, aesthetics and economics. On the one hand, Portland Made represents the collective brand-identity used by Portland’s makers to signify a products’ material existence as handcrafted, place-embedded, and authentic. These characteristics lead to certain assumptions about the concept of ‘local’ (Marotta and Heying): what meaning does Portland Made convey, and how is such meaning distributed? On the other hand, the seemingly intentional embedding of place-specificity in objects meant for distribution far outside of Portland begs another type of question: how does Portland come to be discursively representative of these characteristics, and how are such representations distributed to global audiences? How does this global distribution and consumption of immaterial Portland feed back into the production of material Portland?

To answer these questions we look to the realm of social media, specifically the popular image-based service Instagram. For the uninitiated, Instagram is a web-based social media service that allows pictures to be shared and seen by anyone that follows a person or business’ Instagram account. Actions include posting original photos (often taken and posted with a cell phone), ‘liking’ pictures, and ‘hash-tagging’ posts with trending terms that increase visibility. Instagram presents us with a complex view of place as both material and virtual, sometimes reifying and sometimes abstracting often-contradictory understandings of place specificity. Many makers use Instagram to promote their products to a broad audience and, in doing so, makers participate in the construction of Portland’s mythology. In this paper, we use empirical insights to theorise makers’ role in shaping and cultivating the virtual and material aspects of place. Additionally, we discuss how makers navigate the complex relationships tied to the importance of place in their specific cultural productions. In the first section, we develop the notion of a curated maker subjectivity. In the second section, we consider the relationship between subjectivity and place. Both sections emphasize how Instagram mediates the relationship between place and subjectivity. Through spotlighting particular literatures in each section, we attempt to fill a gap in the literature that addresses the relationship between subjectivity, place, and social media. Through this line of analysis, we attempt to better understand how and where Portland is made, along with the implications for Portland’s makers.


Copyright (c) 2016 Steve Marotta, Austin Cummings, Charles Heying

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