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May 15, 2006



Good writing is good writing and fresh perspectives are, well, fresh. We who value both must welcome their arrival through blogs and electronic media, go online to find them, and perhaps join in. It's also important that we understand the blogosphere as more than just a constellation of voices. These are new economies in formation. The ways in which these economies function (through informal association of links, and more formal guidelines of internet-company business plans) will shape much of cultural criticism in the end, and is already affecting the ways in which traditional media operate).

I must echo Enrique Fernandez's comment about democracy being good - for government. And I'll amplify a bit by adding that democratic societies need healthy bodies of arts and arts criticism that need not be and perhaps should not be, in themselves, all that democratic. If popularity is the currency that ultimately drives these new markets (unmediated by the sense of mission that layers of editors traditionally impose), where will that lead criticism? And if a good deal of criticism ends up transferred to sites that directly or indirectly market artistic products (as is happening quite a bit in my field, music), how will this be distinguishable from promotion? An odd thing is happening with regard to music in relation to the web: The critical voice is, in some cases, being supplanted by the very art it comments upon (why talk about it when we can simply download it?)

Bloggers have shaken and loosened things up in invigorating ways, first and foremost by creating a challenge to established sources and expected formats (does every concert, for instance, require coverage? And in the same form each time?) But there may be good reason to question the need-for-speed ethic that now diminishes the shelf life of critical commentary about the arts. It is mistake for newspapers and magazines to attempt to ape the appeal and function of electronic media: Instead, they should move further away to distinguish their product and preserve the values that made them significant in the first place.

There's a fascinating and crucial tension between traditional and electronic media right now. Can we affect how it plays out?

Posted by at May 15, 2006 6:48 AM

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