It’s a neighbourhood site that can be gorgeously supportive and informative – or like Sartre’s Hell. During lockdown, everthing seemed to get amplified. We witnessed both an outpouring of altruism and offers of help, but also a lot of folk with time on their hands and stir-crazy anger using the site as dumping space for their frustration and negativity.
Like blogger Tommy T, I am a bit obsessed with Nextdoor and what it tells us about who we are.
Inspired to do something to make my time-waste obsession more fruitful, I had a go at using the cut-up method to make a Nextdoor poem thing. Look, I cheated, of course. I honestly did use a one-day random snapshot of posts from one particular day, but I didn’t allow random unconsciousness in much for the selection (we don’t know each other that well, my darlings, and I’m not about to let you in that far). So yeah, I artificed a bit and chose not-entirely random phrases which I then very deliberately ordered into some kind of narrative.
I’m quite happy with how it came out, although the day I did this, it does look as though the posts were weighing towards the negative. Honestly, it’s not always that way. I might do another one on a day when Nextdoor feels a bit happier. Try your own cut-up – great entertainment.
Welcome to the Seaside
Human beings are the top predators on the planet.
People seem very friendly
Asda or Haskins? Asda is not so noisy
I live in Worthing and the nearest venue they offered me was in Chichester!
It’s time we started valuing our health and our quality of life over wealth
You look a nasty piece of work
It’s Worthing… People here don’t like long haired Brighton folks so much.
10+ years worth of dirt and grime
His quality of hedge trimming is outstanding!
I lost my mother not so long ago what do I do for mothers day
She is amazing and I have used her along with a few friends
Nadia & Nessie always have their fingers in everything
I suggest you look like a weak little woman
Another load of vegan tosh
Today I did a very silly thing.
Hatha yoga classes in my garden
I’m Mike I’m a gardener
Encouraged by his doting mum
A woke entitled snowflake
We got very very muddy jumping in puddles at Tarring Park too lately, total quagmire there!
Founded as a herring fishing village..!
I got water in a socket. It started fizzing and smoking.
What can we do about the climate emergency? We’re all responsible.
The Cut Up Method in Hyperspace
The entire set of verses above (including the title and endnote) was produced by using a form of the cut-up method, and applying it to the local neighbourhood site Nextdoor.
Nextdoor is a site founded in 2008 in the USA and it’s mostly used to circulate, within very small areas, posts about nearby ‘buy, sell and gift’ items, local information, discussion on local topics, recommendations for local businesses. Worthing is divided on Nextdoor into neighbourhoods, such as Salvington, Victoria Park and so on. Large or densely populated areas with lots of members are subdivided: Broadwater has 4 divisions. You can see the Nextdoor geography of Worthing membership zones here. Posts can be ‘general’ – to the entire Worthing Nextdoor online community – or specific to your own limited neighbourhood. As we’d expect, the site is a chaotic mix of entrepreneurial hustle, neighbourly compassion, lost pets, reports about traffic, queues and crowds, curiosity about roadworks or wildlife species spotted- and a fair bit of baiting and toxic trouble-stirring. Lockdown has intensified both the volume of traffic and the emotional charge of the posts there. It’s kind of addictive. All human (and inhuman) life really does feel like it’s there, in delirious juxtaposition.
I thought that this hyper-ness makes Nextdoor especially suited to the cut-up technique. This technique takes words and allows them to fall randomly – some would say, led by your own unconscious – into patterns which are then read to form a kind of poem or prose-verse. You could call it a collage, made using words rather than images. The 1920s surrealist and Dada movement were fond of cut-up and it was embraced and popularised in the 1960s counterculture movement, William Burroughs being the most well-known promoter and user. It’s been picked up often in the more artsy alleyways of pop culture, by artists like Bowie or Genesis P-Orridge. You can read more about cut-up here. You can get a very simple set of instructions for doing your own cut-up here, at page 73 of the Collaborative Poetics resource guide.
While I worked to produce the above ‘Worthing Nextdoor’ selection in the spirit of cut-up, I didn’t use the classical method of utter randomness. I deliberately selected what felt like a fairly even sample of the stuff that appeared on my particular neighbourhood feed over a one week period, chose arresting and sense-making short phrases from those posts, and then arranged them – quickly, without over-editing – into a set of verses. I cheated, yeah. The part of the process where I am a purist on the method is in using printout and actual paper. Somehow, the physical act of moving small scraps of paper around is a different experience and process – and produces different results – from doing an online soft cut-up and edit. Try it!
Yes, I urge you to have a go for yourself. Cut-up is democratic, fun, nothing at all like being sat down in the primary classroom and ordered to produce a ‘poem’ – and it allows you to play creatively and find something that you might not have known you could do.