AJ Logo an ARTSJOURNAL weblog | ArtsJournal Home | AJ Blog Central
Arts Journalism Blog

« Insert head (A) in sand (B) | Main | blogrolling »

May 15, 2006

Andras and smoke


Andras said:

To some degree, the very scale and openness of postmodern culture have mandated these new filters and hierarchies. And so it will go with the blogsphere. When the smoke clears, we will be back to listening and trusting a finite number of voices. We will depend on them, and we won’t have time for many more.

Perhaps Andras fails to grasp the blogosphere. First: People read blogs because we don't use the word 'postmodern.' (OK, that's only one reason.) Also: It sounds like Andras thinks that the blogosphere is a third-rate, pet-rockish phenomenon that will pass and the Assertive Voices will re-assert themselves. Hooey.

The blogosphere is survival of the fittest, HTML-style. The good bloggers get read, others get much less-read. Individual authority must be earned -- bloggers don't have a newspaper's good name to supply them with clout or with a platform. Instead we earn it ourselves. Readers seem to respond to that: Blog readership numbers are growing, not shrinking.

But for the sake of Andras' argument, let's say that there is 'room' for 10 prominent voices on the visual arts. Right now 2-3 of those voices are bloggers. Within two years I bet bloggers are double that many. There are plenty of reasons for this: With the exception of the LAT, NYT and a few other outlets, most newspapers don't have full-time art critics anymore. Bloggers are filling that void. There are also more smart people out there who like to think out-loud about art than there are jobs at newspapers and magazines. Many of them are worth reading regularly. Some of them are gallerists, others are management consultants. There are more good new art blogs coming online every week. Bloggers are here to stay. (See Terry's post, below this one.)

If there is smoke, and if it clears, it's not bloggers who will be losing readership. In the visual arts, there are only 2-4 newspapers with strong national, critical voices. The WSJ doesn't have an art critic. Neither does NPR. The Chicago Tribune, Dallas Morning News, and other super-regional papers have art writers who barely leave their home turf. As the art world has shaken off regionalism for internationalism, (like commerce, science, etc.), those papers haven't adapted.

The voices that will be forgotten in the visual arts dialogue are, in order: art magazines and the academics who write for them, regional art writers (add: who don't keep up on art world changes) and writers who fail to build their own audiences. Bloggers will be -- and already are -- the winners of increased readership.

Posted by at May 15, 2006 6:11 AM


Contrary to your statement, there are a lot more than four American newspapers with full-time art critics. And Dallas Morning News art critic Janet Kutner covers a fair bit of major out-of-town stuff. Maybe not as much as in richer times, but still a fair bit. Sweeping statements, fun as they may be to make, do not enhance our journalistic reputation if they're not accurate.

Posted by: Scott Cantrell at May 15, 2006 6:57 AM


Except I didn't say there were only four newspapers with full-time art critics. (FWIW, I linked to Kutner over on MAN earlier this morning. And there is a link to the DMN arts page on my blogroll. So I obviously read.)

I still think this is true: As the art world (and the collecting and exhibition practices of American museums) have become increasingly international in scope, arts coverage at the overwhelming majority of newspapers/magazines has become more narrow. Bloggers help fill that gap -- they're all over the place, both geographically and otherwise. (Heh.)

Posted by: Tyler Green at May 15, 2006 7:04 AM

Yeah, I turned around and overstated your observation. I still think there are quite a few more than "a few" newspapers with full-time art critics. But it's true that fine arts coverage at newspapers faces big and growing competition--in often tighter spaces--from TV, movies and various forms of popular music. And, wrongly in my opinion, newspapers have decided that emphasizing local (or parochial, if you will) coverage will get more readers than a broader scope and perspective.

Posted by: scott cantrell at May 15, 2006 7:33 AM

Regarding the "voices that will be forgotten," I praise your idealism for blogs but I think you've got it turned around. Blogs are much more easily forgettable than articles published in peer reviewed journals.

Blogs often give news, and like newspapers, are discarded from day to day. Yes, they are way ahead of scholarly publications, but their content is not important enough to be lasting.

Published articles, on the other hand, will be used by the following generations in a very different way than blogs will be used.

I don't think that anything will be made obsolete by blogs. Rather, blogs are filling a void. But they don't threaten the stability of any other form of dialogue.

Posted by: Jason at May 15, 2006 8:18 AM

I've been reading this entire larger discussion with a huge smile on my face, and waiting for a moment to jump in. I imagine there will be several other posts after this one, but I thought I'd start here....

I would disagree that blogs will have no ability to upset journals or other traditional media - we just can't see it yet. In academic circles, it used to be that web materials of any variety were unacceptable for use, being too "unreliable" to serve as reputable resources. But that has changed, and with time, so will blogging.

Saying that their content “isn’t important enough to be lasting” I think is greatly underestimating the potential of these writers and what they have to say. At what point did immediacy relinquish accuracy? Or insightfulness?

I don’t wish to presume that blogging will take over the world, but the thing about the internet is that we don’t know what to do with it yet. As a society we have only scratched the surface of it’s abilities to help us communicate or learn or simply exist. I would be leery at undermining its potential.

Posted by: Claire Blaustein at May 15, 2006 9:43 AM

In my haste to reply to comments, I forgot my response to the original post.

I wholeheartedly agree that bloggers will win the battle for readers. The lack of outside authoritative bodies, as so many other posts have mentioned, create a situation where the blog can be judged only by its content - a rare even in any form of published media. The potential to categorize the new media as a utopian vision aside - there is much to be said about the potential for it to shake up the traditional ideas of authority and bring new voices into the dialogue about the arts - and everything else.

Posted by: Claire Blaustein at May 15, 2006 9:48 AM

We created PORT: www.portlandart.net to augment the serious art discussions going on in and around Portland, Oregon. We sought to evolve the blog as a way to break out of regional navel gazing and address the nearly violent rise in cultural sophistication in the city.

The weeklies and dailies can't discuss things the way we do -- or as frequently. All of our staff are paid and all of our writers are also published in dead-tree media. The experiment is working and we are adding 2-3 more staff members soon, giving us one of the largest art writing staffs on the West Coast. It's been a crazy experiment creating a daily publication that both drives sophisticated discussion and opens the world to our little but rapidly expanding universe... The blog, as Tyler has shown, can more than compete if the content is there. In the visual arts the blog has incredible promise that is already being realized. If you are good and know your stuff, your readers will find you. Also, a lot of the old postmodern discourse is a bloated self servicing contrivance and blogs are where the new discourse is being hammered out.

Posted by: Jeff Jahn at May 15, 2006 10:59 AM

As important as the writing is, typos and all in my case. Lets not forget the abilty to post images from the gallery opening last night or the day long kinetic sculpture race; pictures linked to a flickr site. Since when has making art been about the $$. Money is wonderful, but we're going to make art and discuss it no matter. The more voices and pictures the better!

Posted by: mark at May 15, 2006 6:56 PM

Someone on another site mentioned that if indeed female bloggers are so important, why are there not more links to them? Or do they just not writing in the same way and so, not defined in the ususal means? Guess they are cool to mention for the right PC cred but not link.

Posted by: eva at May 16, 2006 8:23 PM

Tell A Friend

Email this entry to:

Your email address:

Message (optional):