When a tourist is planning a trip to DC, they may start their search on the internet, scouring the web for the best and coolest places to check out on their tour. As Shaw continues to rise as the newest “hip” area, it is key that there is a digital site that portrays Shaw in it’s best light. On washington.org’s site, most likely one of the first websites a tourist will come across when researching the area, Shaw is described as “shiny”, “hip”, “historical”, and “buzzing.” These words are plastered in front of a painted mural on the side of a typical Shaw house, the entire wall covered in modern street art. This panorama of the neighborhood, filled with vivid colors and
bold words, attracts the younger crowd specifically. In fact, the entire website is geared towards a younger generation. For example, a bolded quote on the front page says “Find cool local shops, foodie restaurants, concert halls and African American history in this rapidly developing downtown zone.” This quote uses the word “foodie,” which according to Wikipedia, is defined as “ a person who has an ardent or refined interest in food and alcoholic beverages. A foodie seeks new food experiences as a hobby rather than simply eating out of convenience or hunger.” The term foodie is a fairly new term, surfacing with the rise of social media platforms such as Instagram and Snapchat, where foodies generally post pictures of their food to share with their friends and followers. The user population of these apps is usually people under the age of 30. Some foodies have even been able to turn their social media platforms into a source of income, just by posting pictures of their food. This shows the impact social media, and food, have on the millennial generation. The digital document seems to be aware of this, and appeals to this crowd by advertising the local restaurants, perfect for giving foodies the “adventure” they seek. The site does describe Shaw as “buzzing,” which could be in reference to the social media buzz the area has received lately. This can also be said for the local shops and concert halls as well, which the website endorses in big letters on the front page. These shops include trendy clothes outlets and hipster thrift stores, or in their words, “indie chain stores.” This is another aspect of a modern neighborhood the younger generation tends to enjoy. Concert halls, on the other hand, could include Howard’s historic theater, but the website chooses to use the words “concert hall” instead. This was intentional, as a concert hall portrays a different idea than a theater would. A concert hall is typically seen as a fun hangout for younger people, while a theater is perceived as professional, and more suitable for an older crowd. It is evident just from this one sentence that the digital site is trying to make the neighborhood seem more engaging for the young professionals that are either moving in, or visiting as a tourist destination.
What the digital doc fails to recognize are the long time residents of Shaw. Yes, the website acknowledges that Shaw is rooted in African-American culture, but it does not go any further than that. This completely excludes a significant amount of the population that resides within Shaw. This could be due to two reasons. Either the website is only trying to appeal to the new surge of people moving in and visiting, or they are actively choosing not to broadcast African American history on their site. In both cases, it seems that the website is only attempting to allure new residents and visitors, rather than natives. When it comes to Shaw’s history, the digital doc only mentions historical sites such as the Lincoln and Howard theater, and briefly mentions how this spot was once known as “Black Broadway” before the 1960’s. It appears that Shaw is moving further away from it’s roots, which were once established in the entire neighborhood and the people themselves. Now, it’s history is only worth a few sentences, according to this site. It is interesting to see how a website designed to provide an accurate description of the site chooses to quickly mention an entire neighborhood’s history, something it was once well known for, and instead focus on the “trendy” locations, even though these locations may only a few years old themselves and do not contribute much to Shaw’s culture. It is a clear sign that Shaw’s culture is in the midst of a great change.
On the right hand side of the page, the site includes a handy Google map, as well as directions to Metro stops in order for tourists to travel to Shaw with ease. These small widgets make it obvious that this site is more so geared towards tourists or new residents, rather than locals. This is especially interesting because one of the widgets is named “Locals Love,” a small section dedicated to shops and bars that “locals” tend to go to. This brings up the question, who are these locals? If the website as a whole is aimed towards the young professionals, then certainly these locals are not the Ethiopian family living down the street. Shaw has experienced a significant amount of gentrification in such a short amount of time, but the line between yuppies and long time residents is clear. The digital doc chooses to call these yuppies “locals,” which in some sense, they are now. This is just further evidence that Shaw does not appeal to the same people it used to just a few years ago. A local of Shaw today looks much different than they did only ten short years ago.
“Shaw.” Washington.org, 14 Apr. 2016, https://washington.org/dc-neighborhoods/shaw.
“Foodie.” Wikipedia, 11 Dec. 2016. Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Foodie&oldid=754236575.