MAIN POST: week 7 blog question

Week 7:
Lovink (Reader, page 222) also argues that: “No matter how much talk there is of community and mobs, the fact remains that blogs are primarily used as a tool to manage the self”.

Discuss this argument giving an example of a blog.

Blogs are a peculiar sort of medium in that they have links with the most private forms of writing, ie. diaries and journals, yet they are meant to be public pieces of writing. In fact, Lovink notes this history of diary keeping and its relation with blogging, highlighting Thomas Mallon’s arguments about how no one can write anything just for himself (6). This narcissistic, self-centered focus of diary keeping, and in relation, blog writing, contrasts with the model of high interactivity that new media is offering us. Blogs sit on a peculiar boundary between public and private, allowing accessibility and social interactions, based around very personal material.

Lovink’s arguments seem to be very narrow minded, considering the wide range of blogs available on the Internet. These blogs may be similar in its counter-chronological format, yet the writing styles, content and publishing purposes can vary greatly. I agree with Lovink, up to a certain point. There are certain characteristics that distinguish more self-centered blogs from other more content focus blogs, that may contradict Lovink’s claim for blogs as a tool for self management (28).

Most blogs on the Internet take the form of a confessional, personal journal, usually authored by teenage girls from their bedrooms (Solove: 24) (example). These blogs do indeed act as a form of structuring, by writing things down and noting it with pictures, these accounts of day-to-day lives records and reflects on the self accordingly. However there are blogs that are mainly focused on certain content (example), most often authored by more than one blogger, which have none of the personal touches that the confessional blogs have. These blogs usually push for interactivity and community more than personal blogs as they are often commercially backed, meaning that the viewer interest and popularity becomes an important part of the equation.

New York blogger, Gala Darling’s blog is an interesting one, because it sits somewhere neatly in the middle of the above two extremes. The content can be seen to be very community focused, with many entries providing links to interesting websites or inspiring videos, as well as competitions and opportunities for readers to participate in. Yet there seems to be no comment function, which is interesting in considering that comment functions are often provided but do not seem inherent or even necessary to the medium.  The entries often note what she is wearing and where the items are from, as well as the public appearances and job opportunities she has been to. These personal touches can serve a self-reflective function, archiving things that she has experiences by placing them on the web. The most obvious examples are blog entries where she puts together the outfits that she has enjoyed wearing the most during the year – whilst it can be seen to be interesting from a fashion standpoint, the basic impulse is inherently narcissistic.

woowoo

Screen Capture of Gala Darling

(word count: 468)

Daniel J. Solove, ‘How the Free Flow of Informaiton Liberates and Constrains Us’, in The Future of Reputation: Gossip, Rumour and Privacy on the Internet, New Haven: Yale University Press, pp. 17-49.

Geert Lovink, “Blogging, The Nihilist Impulse”, in Zero Comments: Blogging and Critical Internet Culture, London: Routledge, pp. 1-38.


hamsters in a wheel

 

wow! look at this! pokepoke

Photo sourced from Flickr, by Siemens

With the Internet comes the promise of the exciting Everything, Everywhere, Now. Ads for smart phones and internet providers capitalize on this all empowering idea of mobility and connectivity, providing endless possibilities and productivity. Yet this constant connectivity becomes burdening when it means that you are never free from the responsibility of being connected to everyone. There is pressure for e-mails to be responded to, no matter week day or weekend. Location is not a problem, with software like Skype allowing videochats for free. There is always something that you haven’t watched, an article you haven’t read, the latest meme you are not clued into. Things are constantly moving, and the newness of trending internet topics assures that older ones are buried in a constant renewal of information.

Lovink argues that the speed of events and that rate at which their occurence is replaced means that there is a real danger of these online phenemenons to disappear before there is a real chance for critical discourse to acknowledge or reflect upon it. The most common type of commentary that tends to surface and respond to internet phenemenon quickly are blogs and websites, which are also partial to this archiving of information. With this wealth and speed of information to be gauged and absorbed, news outlets find it difficult to confront such staggering amounts of data. The 24/7 nature of the Internet means that news always has to be current, it cannot be just from today or the day before. Whilst this allows perks such as stories being updated as they occur, it means that journalists are often held to the clock. This means that stories are being churned out day after day, and it could be argued that the quality of journalism has decreased since the overwhelming push of new media. The Federal Communications Commission has dubbed this effect the ‘hamsterization’ of journalism.


MAIN POST: week 8 blog question

Week 8:
Alan Lui discusses the use of visual metaphors from older media in web design and argues that such metaphors “naturalize the limitations of the new medium by disguising them within those of older media” (Reader, page 228).

Discuss while giving an example of a website.

 —

The above quote is taken from a wider argument in which Alan Lui (2004: 195-230)discusses the properties and problems of achieving ‘cool’ web design. The subjective factor of ‘cool’ aside, one of the problems he highlights with designing for the Internet is that designers are not used to accommodating the highly fluid nature of web pages. One cannot design within a fixed frame of measurements, in the result is dependant on factors such as screen resolution/width, or wherever the user lands in scrolling up and down the page. Metaphors of older media are employed by designers to ‘naturalize’ these limitations by placing them within the explainable physical frameworks in a virtual form.

black and white, black and gold dumdumdumdeedum

Image sourced from Flickr, by Daniel R. Blume

An example I would like to highlight is similarities between print publications and their online counterparts. If we compare The Age in print and the online version, we see certain overlapping design features. The newspaper logo is printed at the top and center of the page, headlines are ordered in size and importance, pictures and text are balanced for maximum readability. In some senses, the difficulties of arranging the somewhat space consuming information (which is done away with the folding sprawl of the printed broadsheet) is indeed naturalized within the uniformity and geometric arrangements that are common with newspapers. However, it may be argued that these design features are also kept because they are practical, and provides the same purpose in both print and digital formats. Newspapers will arrange headlines in order of importance, and size accordingly because it is trying to convey information efficiently.

What Lui neglects to address is perhaps the functions that these metaphors may serve in translating old media to new. The similarities between print and online media help the transition from print to digital – from old media to new media. The layout helps users recognize familiar features and identify that it is the same thing, only in a digital format. Moreover, the manner in which Lui discusses old media as a disguise or limitation falsely points towards the features of new media being hidden or ill utilized in these layouts. For instance, The Age website maintains its new media characteristics of modularity and variability (Manovich 2001: 30-31, 36-39). The articles displayed will be ordered by date and relevance, like the old media version, but there are links to older articles. Access to these articles does not break up the coherence of the text, whereas the print version could only contain articles within each issue as a whole. The constant updating of the website means that it is always unfinished and changing, producing constantly ephemeral versions of itself.

The arguments that Lui make highlight the difficulties in web architecture – form must follow function, combining the ease of navigation with aesthetic appearance.

(Word Count: 452)

Lui, Alan. “Information is Style”, in Laws of Cool: Knowledge Work and the Culture of Information, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2004, pp. 195-230.

Manovich, Lev. “What is New Media?” in The Language of New Media, Cambridge: MIT Press, 2001, pp. 19-48.