Flame On!

Joerg Colberg and I had a good conversation on the phone a month or so ago and talked at length about the medium of the Blog. I’ve been thinking about what a blog can in fact perform, do or be good at and gave a lecture at the Cleveland SPE conference about some of my conclusions. 

It seems still many seek to turn the internet into some cool night cafe. A place where secrets and conversation (with the really cool people) can happen uninhibited and democratic. Well it’s clear by now that the medium veils so much that the dialogue that happens online is one uniquely it’s own. In fact we can converse, but through a new means and with a new vernacular (OMG!). This is nothing new and nothing most of us don’t know. A few years back this video really drove the point home.
Parlor DSL
I find myself inundated with emails that ask for reviews, lengthy dialogues or profound essays that most often require far too much time to give it the response it asks. In most cases if I sit down in a room and have a conversation about art with someone we get to some really interesting places. If I would even try to type that out it’s clearer to me than ever it would fail miserably. 
The really interesting fact to me is what is this need to voice opinions with an authoritative tone? Is a desire to proclaim ones intelligence, a virtual pissing match? I’d hate to think that’s all it is as again the internet is so unfulfilling in that sense (ok enough phallic references). Joerg’s post today asks some of those same questions and reading over some of the posts from his google groups experiment also clarifies the above question. At the moment there are 334 emails with various topics I received over email from Joerg’s google group, I’ve barely had a moment to read 1/4 of them and after reading quite a few which attack Joerg himself for not being ‘democratic’ enough to allow comments on his blog or flame his opinion I most likely won’t read them. I don’t mean to be nihilistic here I do think the blogs and internet does some amazing things to photography and communities in general. I just have a hard time (noticed this way back on Alec’s blog) when people attack the person who gives up the time and investment to create the blog or destination where ideas are shared-broadcast. 
If we do focus on what the medium allows us to do that we weren’t through others mediums, anonymous comments would be rather low on the list. To give some ideas of what it can do here’s some topics from the talk:
Citation, Fact Checking
Fabrication of Persona
Reverse Order Emphasizes Current (shorten time spans)
Participatory Journalism
Dialogue (there is good dialogue online though often not a back and forth but one idea gives forth to another)
Curation/Community Building
These to me are areas which have transformed the way we understand ourselves and our relation to the world. 


  1. Posted December 9, 2008 at 3:45 pm | Permalink

    I’m really excited to read the related post. I struggle with these issues daily in a professional and personal context and I’ve come up nil on what to do about it. Mostly, I just try to realize that the Internet is a tool, like any other, and by that definitions it has limitations.

    I also realize that it HAS done amazing things for making the ‘world smaller’ and for connecting ridiculous amounts of information easily and sometimes seamlessly.

    It also houses many, many “trolls” and people with too much time on their hands…

    Comedians have hecklers…the Interwebs have hack-lers…

    Thanks for the valuable post.

  2. Posted December 9, 2008 at 4:19 pm | Permalink

    I heart ‘hack-lers’ (the term).

  3. Posted December 10, 2008 at 3:48 am | Permalink

    I think blogging is so new we are all still trying to figure out the NEW rules of the game. I feel like there is potential for this new 2 way dialogue or at least an less filtered publishing of ideas. If blogging didn’t exist would Joerg have been able to go from Scientist to portfolio reviewer? Maybe but I would argue that it might have taken longer if at all. So on one hand this is a great communication tool but on the other it can be another thing to choose for the purpose of distraction. At least this can be more productive then TV.

  4. Posted December 10, 2008 at 8:25 am | Permalink

    I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don’t know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.



  5. Posted December 10, 2008 at 12:45 pm | Permalink

    Thank you, thank you; “hack-lers”; my own creation. Such a witty woman I am, I am…

    I think communication on the web would improve if we just remembered that its another form of human-to-human interaction…common decency, protocol, manners and all that.

    That, and don’t drink while your posting comments. Communication just seems to go down the tubes when you mix alcohol into the replies.

    But…I’m dreaming. As long as there is bandwidth and beer…there will be hack-lers.

    (P.S. My “word verification) word is “prick”)

  6. Posted December 13, 2008 at 6:48 am | Permalink

    i hate cellphones. brian knows this, i don’t carry one. and my biggest problem with them is that i have to hear other peoples conversations- they seem to want to share them with me when they’re having a bad day, or yelling at someone. i can hear it and what they don’t realize is that its the pits and kinda puts me in a downer (or i think this guy is crazy). i feel that blogs are a bit like that- a distant cousin. i enjoy them at times- i’m here for reading good discussions, like a early richard linklater movie- hooray for the art of conversation!

    trouble brews when theres something to prove. whatever happened to there’s no right or wrong just a lesser of truths? also there’s the “passionate” idea that its the internet so one can pretty much say/be/do whatever they want to as there’s really no penalties…aside from getting 300 emails. its like back when the tv network airs something bad and the young intern runs into the control room and tells the producers that the phones are ringing off the hook!

    my own comments run me into trouble as most of them involve humor or sarcasm as i’m a bit of a “carefree individual”. i am serious about photography and other peoples work but say if i were to comment on one of the more thought provoking posts, for example the internet killing the ambiguity of photographs (which is really a spot on discussion), perhaps i would make my remark a little dry or sarcastic as brian and i enjoy joking and having a laugh in person. but then i think before i “post” i take into consideration all the other folk, in a way strangers or cyber friends- that don’t really know me, they are going to read what i posted and perhaps think what a moron. some serious drawbacks for earning cool points.

    maybe its high time that someone smart enough came up with a “ten commandments” for blogging? thou shalt not blog and…..

  7. Posted December 17, 2008 at 12:15 pm | Permalink

    ya, blogs are great and they suck at the same time. One of the strangest and most irritating issues is the whole invented persona thing that you brought up, where suddenly people have the courage to act in certain ways that they would not otherwise. Maybe that’s a good thing in some cases, but many times it leads nowhere good. That’s the power of feeling shielded by anonymity. Some commenters can be a real pain in the ass.

    At the same time, I get a lot out of blogs, and I think that there is still a huge potential. Mostly I like the fact that they are more interactive forms of media, unlike books and magazines that just sit there–it’s a lot easier to communicate with a blog author than to try to contact someone who wrote a book you like.


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