Outline for my Thesis on blogs

December 18, 2007

What follows is an outline for my thesis on the topic of the literary merit of blogs. I am very eager to receive feed back and suggestions also advice on where to search for more content. Thank you in advance.

Huysmans.

Introduction:

Here I want to introduce the topic starting with describing both the intermediality in art today as well as the multimedia aspects of the internet. I will begin this thesis and the introduction with a discussion of my own blog and my own travels in the blogosphere. I know the idea of an intro is to introduce the topic so I plan to extend the conversation here to touch upon how blogs have affected much more than just an e-community.

·         The story of my own blog

o   I feel that the best way to dive into this topic is to describe how I dove into it. I don’t plan on this being long at all but I do intend for it to wet the pallet of the reader and to engage them into why this might be of interest to them.

·         Art in the 21st century

o   This section will focus on two major trends: intermediality in “old media” and multimedia in “new media.”

§  With the study of intermediality I want to focus on works like The Pillow Book and the popularity of adaption to emphasis the cross media work being done today. The thesis of this section is to suggest that old media (Print, TV, Radio, Film) are working very hard today to interact, TV shows based on films, films based on musicals based on films, films acting as visual novels, and of course novels made into musicals made into films. The idea of all this cross over and what may be driving it, to enhance the story and bring the story to multiple audiences, or both.

§  The second aspect of this section is to look at the role the internet has played in this. Again here there are two trends I want to focus one. One is the role of the internet in regards to old media, viral marketing campaigns, characters from television shows having their own blogs, publishers adding literary content to accompany a novel on line. The second part is to look at art that can only exist online. This will work to introduce the blog but it will also look at a graphic novel made exclusively for a Facebook application, digital/visual poetry as well as the new version of blogs that incorporate every type of media (visual, auditory, and textual).

o   I will conclude this section by connecting these two elements to suggest that when in modernism the importance of the medium was fundamental to advancing its specific art, the 21st century has abandoned such uniqueness in favor of a new medium, a multimedium (the internet).

Section 1: The Blog

This section will focus entirely on getting the reader acquainted with the blog. Here is where I plan on providing the history of the blog, beginning briefly with the history of the internet, and followed mostly by the development of the weblog and then the blog. The goal of this section is for the reader to understand all the elements that go into the creation of a blog today and how that is new and different from say ten years ago. I want to stress the development of user friendly software along with the development boom of the internet itself. Since I plan on discussing the online literary community later, I want to make sure the reader understands the power of such organizations such as Amazon, Google, Facebook, Second Life, Blogger, WordPress, and a few others that are key players in the literary world of the internet.

·         The Blog: Past, Present, and Future

o   This part is pretty self explanatory; it will describe in brief the history of the weblog as well as parallel it with the development of the internet and later the development of social software and web 2.0. This terminology is important and will all be explained here.

o   This chapter will then focus on the world of the blog today. I want to provide the reader with an understanding of how the blog is being used today.

§  Starting with the original weblog feature as a web filter.

§  Moving on to discuss the most popular use as a public diary.

§  Briefly touching upon its new role in journalism.

§  Lastly talking about its community development power.

o   Before moving on to the future aspects I will provide a section on the use of blogs and other social software tools, such as the examples mentioned above. The ultimate idea is for the reader to understand what is meant by “digital life” and how one might experience a “second life” through their online persona.

o   The third part will be to talk about the blog’s potential future and where bloggers today want to see it going.

§  This will mostly focus on its potential as a new form of publishing as well as its untapped power as a community builder.

·         NOTE: It may be beneficial to break up this into three sections instead of slating it all under one. To be honest I have not put much thought into exactly how I am to organize all of this beyond dividing it up into sections. Perhaps this section would have three chapters: Past, Present and Future. There is arguably enough material to do that. Or perhaps this section may not be as pertinent with the discussion of literary merit and should be reduced to just a chapter in the following section.

Section 2: The Literary World Online

            This section may be the largest as it will focus on the developing literary community on the internet. The key components of this section are the literary blogs. There are two major types of literary blogs, blogs that are producing their own literature and blogs that are acting as book reviewers. In addition to these two types of blogs I will also focus on the extensive community elements built around blogs of this sort: annual writing competitions, online literary journals, blogging communities voicing opinions about the established literary authorities, and published writers blogging about the writing process.  

·         The New Literary Medium

o   This first section will delve into the literary merit of a blog. I will divide this into three aspects, which will be first is yet to be established but generally I see it going as follows:

o   The Public Journal: I want to look at this “genre” as fiction itself, similar to an autobiography. This genre has no regulations forcing it to be factual and has no pre-established criteria save the general concept of what one logs in his/her diary.

§  Thus I want to explore what makes this genre unique: it has no fixed end, it is written by one author but is aided by the contributions of the general public who choose to contribute, it has no limitation as to the type of medium used in an entry (videos, images, and sound bites can all be added), and it uses the power of hypertext (text that can be linked throughout the web allowing for the artistic experience to then incorporate more writers and more readers and more communities from across the internet).

·         Each of these points will be further explained, especially the last on hypertext theory. I plan on spending some time discussing hypertext theory and its original research long before the blog existed.

o   The fictional blog: This section will look at how the same aspects of the public journal are then applied to a piece of fiction that is submitted to an audience via a blog. Basically this section will look at writers who are publishing through blogs rather than print.

§  Questions to be raised in this section are how the blog format affects narration; what role do the commentators play; and how the story is being presented (this is different from the first aspect in that the first point will focus on how the blogger is utilizing the specific attributes of a blog to expand his story, such as hypertext and multimedia elements; while this section will look at how these elements are being presented in the blog, what makes up a post? How are they archived? And so forth).

§  Another aspect of this section is how the blogger relates to the work of fiction; is it explicit that we are reading fiction? Does the blogger chime in with commentary on how the story is progressing? In general does the writer acknowledge his own separate existence from the story or does he allow the entire blog to be part of the fictional story. These aspects are important to evaluate how narrative is being changed when fiction is being written for a blog versus print.

o   The portfolio blog: this final section will expand on the blogs where the author controls the blog beyond any one specific story. For example a novelist may make one blog for just that one novel. This would fall under the previous section. But that same novelist may have a blog for submitting poetry and short stories, that blog would go here. The idea is to look at how fiction is being presented in compilation.

§  Other things I want to touch on but they may end up in other sections are the works of blogs by multiple authors and the literary works done in other online mediums, such as Facebook and Second Life.

·         The New Literary Community

o   This section will focus on the literary blogs that discuss literature. General trends of these blogs are to provide book reviews, assist in online marketing of authors through interviews and promotional pieces, discuss events affecting the literary world such as the writer’s strike, independent book store closings, the release of the Amazon Kindle and so forth. More specifically I want to focus on the literary blogs that are run by writers themselves as some of the time they discuss the writing process, making it much more personal for their audience as well as aspiring writers who my stumble upon their site.

o   Literary Blogs by Writers:

§  This section will arguably be the most dominant in this part of the thesis as these blogs have had some large scale affects on the literary community. I have yet to outline the specific ones I will look at but for sure this will include The Elegant Variation and Bookslut two book review blogs that have taken a lot of readership away from the New York Times.

§  The goal of looking at these blogs is to look at how they change the way the community looks at reading, these are not critics writing at us but rather with us and trying to engage us in a discussion of the merits of the texts they are reviewing.

§  I also plan on commenting on the fact that in response to these blogs, The New York Times created their own blog called Papercuts.

§  In this section I will also look at how these writers describe their own work and engage their audience in the writing process, providing updates on how they are conducting research, going through the motions of writing each day, working with copyeditors, and lastly the feeling of having a published book arrive for your approval.

o   Literary E-Journals

§  In this section I want to look at the movement to collect and catalog work electronically and avoid printing almost entirely. There is one being formed through facebook that I plan on reviewing as well as blogs that are attempting to archive literary blogs themselves as well as help in a wiki movement to archive sources of electronic literature.

§  I will describe in this section as well the phenomenon of the National Novel Writing Month or NaNoWriMo which takes place in November and is a competition for anyone interested to attempt to write a novel in one month’s time while blogging about your progress through their website, or linked to their website should you already have an established blog.

·         There was much discussion along the way with this event and many bloggers described in depth the struggle to meet their goals.

·         Many bloggers blogged each other words of encouragement and such.

·         Surprisingly everyone is very friendly to each other, not really any signs of competition.

o   Connecting with the Real World

§  Here I want to look at how the literary world is incorporating blogs into the print world of literature. I will define the “Virtual Book Tour” here and discuss how it is quickly becoming a necessity for any up and coming author. I also want to look at the roll of programs like Myspace and Facebook in the marketing aspects of book promotions. This will not focus as much on blogs but rather discuss how Web 2.0 and 3.0 is augmenting the literary community.

§  This section will also focus on the death of book review sections in newspapers and suggest the correlation between the decrease in print reviews and the increase in digital literary communities.

Section 3: Publication

Finally with this third section I want to look at the question hidden behind this entire discussion: will blogs replace the book? To answer this I want to introduce the new forms of publication: Print on Demand or POD publishers. I will make the suggestion that the democratization that blogging provided for writers has been further established by the development of these POD publishers who will assist independent writers with publishing their books, each POD is different and some bloggers have blogged heavily on which are the good ones and the ones to avoid. Furthermore I want to look back at the journals I described early to discuss the differences between print journals and e-journals. In the end I will suggest that the printed book will continue to exist but its existence will most certainly be challenged by this new community.

·         PODs and traditional publishers

o   This section will focus on the development of POD publishers; I have some that I am looking at specifically to use as explanations for how they work. Also many bloggers have discussed using PODs and have thus incorporated them into the literary blogging community making them important when describing the role that publishers play. I will also discuss that they are still a print service but one created for an internet world. So this small section will have two parts.

o   The history of the PODs

§  This section will provide the history of the POD publications and look at their use today. I will also provide here examples of PODs and talk about how they are used and their popularity among writers.

§  Many articles have been written about how they are affecting more traditional publications.

o   Blogger response to PODs

§  Here I want to briefly address how bloggers are responding and communicating with PODs, many bloggers share their lists of which ones they like and don’t like and so on.

·         Digital publications

o   This section will return to the digital journals I mentioned earlier and discuss them more form the aspect of how they differ from their printed cousins. I want to look at how those differences affect their form, content, and readership. What is also important is to look at how digital writers perceive them. Do writers write differently know that what they are writing will not be printed but rather digitally presented? So to stick with the same form as the previous section this will have two aspects.

o   An aesthetic analysis of the digital journals themselves

§  I am still working on choosing which ones to follow but the idea is to compare them to print journals and look at how they work differently and similarly and what compels these differences or maintains these similarities? Is the medium of the internet being used affectively to establish these journals? Are they just digital replicas of what could be printed?

o   A community analysis

§  Here I want to look at the people who both contribute to these journals and those who subscribe to them. What do bloggers have to say about digital journals? How do writers write differently for them?

·         The Future of the Book

o   With this last section I want to expand the discussion a little to introduce the new Kindle device by Amazon along with some other anecdotes I have come across in regards to digital presentation of literature. Writers are looking to write for digital screens and devices, such as cell phones. I want to engage the reader in thinking about how the book might be affected not by digital publication but simply by digital democracy and community. And were the book to be replaced, would writers then write differently knowing it would never take that form? Will the Kindle change the way we write if it succeeds in changing the way we read?

Conclusion

            Finally with this last section I will conclude the thesis by suggesting that the blog may in fact be a new style of literature, rather than a degradation of language. But I will also look to describe the current literary community both online and off. Two very important points I want to stress here is that even this paper will be dated from the moment it is written and that much of the discussion has been on the potential and not the actual. It is important to concede the point that no work of fiction that has appeared on a blog has had the readership of a New York Times best seller. But like the former point states, this thesis is dated and that might not even be true come March. I want to look at the possible reasons why this is still very much a potential outcome and not an actual one, mostly I will discuss the newness of this medium and that like Film it will need time to establish itself.

·         The power gone bad

o   To start the conclusion I want to share the story of Kaycee Nelson, a fictional character who had a blog and blogged about being a college student with leukemia. She became very famous as her words were extremely encouraging and empowering; she was even quoted by the New York Times. But eventually it came out that she was entirely fictional.

§  Thus I want to talk about how all this creative power can be abused and used to deceive. But on the flip side it is still art, it is shocking like Duchamp was but in a new way. 

·         The potential may or may not become the actual

o   This section as stated above will look at why we are still discussing the potential of blogs and not the actuality of them. Though much of my discussion will be on the actuality very few have utilized blogs to the full extent of the medium and this section will look into why that is. More specifically I want to focus on the theories that suggest this dilemma is due to the newness factor of blogs and that a new medium of art needs time to establish itself before its masterpieces are produced.

·         Final Thoughts

o   This last section is where I will suggest my own opinion that a blog represents a new genre of literature while also suggesting the fact that even my own work is dated in regards to this topic, that tomorrow will bring a totally new perspective. Furthermore I will use my idea of what a blog represents to connect all the elements of this thesis back together, the multimedia aspect, the literary community online, digital journals, public diaries, printing on demand, and everything else back the blog.

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Salsa is now on Stage

December 8, 2007

Okay so rather than debating the general, Art versus art. I’d like to discuss the aesthetic, oh that word again, aspects of different elements of society that may or may not be considered artistic. To begin with I want to approach the topic of Dance, a field that I believe is still considered to be an art, despite its athletic requirements as well the distinction between choreographers and dancers. By distinction I mean to acknowledge the difference between the individual probably considered the artist, the creator of the artistic piece, the choreogrpaher or composer in music, or director and writer in film and theater. These individuals are the ones who are creating what is then performed by the actors, musicians, and dancers. So the question I want to ask is: Are these performers artists as well?

The answer is YES! As I have previously stated, I believe art is an interaction between the creator and observer and therefore cannot exist without one or the other. I find that that is true for the performing arts as well, you can’t create a work of music without musicians to play it, and furthermore, each time it is performed, it will be different. No two musicians will ever play the same work the same way. By default a performer brings their own artistic interpretations to the work. Therefore what is then presented to us is not the work of the choreographer but rather the interplay between what the choreographer has envisioned and how the dancers have interpreted it. So dancers are artists. Their bodies are the expressions of art.

I bring dancing up specifically from a personal standpoint, I am in no way a dancer, but then again perhaps we all are in some way. But anyway I had the pleasure of attending a Salsa performance last night, along with a salsa lesson where I learned some simple moves and could do it a little by the end of the night. But I do not want to talk about my progress, rather I’d like to state that watching a performance by a group of dancer who have connected with this music and their choreographer is truly enjoying.  It is an artistic expression and each dancer is vital to creating that expression.

I’m sure few would argue with the artistic merit and aesthetic attributes of dance, but lets move now to athletics. I would venture that there is artistic merit in the way in which an athlete moves and reacts to their enviornment.

Lets begin the debate…


Art for Art’s Sake

November 27, 2007

First I must apologize for taking so long to respond to such a wonderful post. I am still new to blogging and am learning just how much time I need to dedicate to it. Everett has introduced an extremely interesting and thought provoking connection between art and a higher mystical/transcendental purpose on his website, POSHLUST. More specifically he has addressed my desire to compare Art or High Art and art or Low Art as to understand why the difference needs to exist. Everett suggests that this difference exists because in reality they are actually two completely different entities with “artists” working towards completely different ends. Art, Everett describes below:  Art exists “for its own sake” in the sense that it cannot serve an ideological purpose. As Robbe-Grillet says, “What [the author] was trying to do is merely the book itself…. And when we ask him why he has written his book, he has only one answer: “To try and find out why I wanted to write it.” This enlightenment, this awareness, cannot be approached cognitively: art must exist free because the very act of creating is a search, a quest, for something that it is not even entirely aware of when it begins. (For all the arguing I have done about “a heightened sense of consciousness,” I could not even begin to describe it; it is beyond me.) Thus to impose any level of direction on Art restrains it. (This is why philosophical works like those of Camus or Sartre or Brecht fail so miserably as literature: they are trying to teach us, but they force the work to fit their ideas, and the work becomes less because of it.) Art for art’s sake does not mean that it is meaningless; rather, it means that art requires freedom to serve its purpose, which is a search for, a desire to understand and communicate, the ineffable.”  

Therefore Art, Everett suggests is not designed for any one specific purpose but rather is an example of one artist’s search to communicate and/or understand the ineffable (a word mystics love to use to defend their experience as being legitimate). He therefore acknowledges his belief in “art for art’s sake” but not to suggest that art is meaningless and serves no purpose but that its purpose is within what Art is. While he calls art, or low art as being entertainment and having a different purpose entirely.

 This is not the goal of Entertainment. The goal of entertainment is to dull our senses to the world, to make us more comfortable with the world as it is. Mythology, Campbell wrote, was designed to make a mysterious and frightening world more acceptable; one cannot help but watch Live Free and Die Hard in the same context: providing our great fears (terrorism, a government incapable of dealing with disasters) and then providing us a comfortable resolution— the idea that these problems can be fixed, that even the great threat of terrorism is weak compared to American determination and ingenuity. Can there be fine works of entertainment? Certainly. David Huddle’s The Story of a Million Years, Chip Kidd’s The Cheese Monkeys, the works of Edith Sitwell, Stephen King (and most other genre writers for that matter), most of the style of French rococo, et&c.” 

With this definition he argues that one should not engage in a difference between the two categories because in the end they are entirely different productions that serve a different purpose and are produced in different ways. Where entertainment seeks to comfort art seeks to understand. This is a very interesting idea and one, I’ll be honest, I haven’t considered when engaging this debate. And I believe that Everett has posed a very convincing argument as to the validity of such a separation. He further argues that these entertainment pieces are:

 

temporal, their goal is, as the word “amuse” means “to divert from serious business,” a pleasant escapism. It is not to say that these works lack beauty or do not provoke thought, but rather that they are not designed to fundamentally change our perception of the world, our relationship with the world.”

But I must ask the question with this in regards to those well constructed entertainment pieces. What if they fundamentally change our perception of the world or have the influence to affect that change, maybe not fundamentally. But Everett has set up his argument well and stated that they weren’t designed to and therefore their effects do not necessarily influence which category they fall under. My problem with this argument is that it puts too much emphasis on the creator. I believe, as I have stated before , that art is not defined by an object but rather by an interaction and therefore requires active participation by the observer. Thus with this definition I believe that this new distinction between art that seeks to understand and art that seeks to comfort becomes completely subjective based on the relationship with the viewer. I also recognize that I am coming at this from one who believes mysticism and this ineffable thing we try to understand through mystical experiences is simply a euphoric state achieved through aesthetic experience, basically I am saying that art is not designed to explore some higher spiritual existence but rather is designed to explore our relationship with aesthetics. I cannot buy spirituality because I believe it is entirely connected to the “flaw of civilization” that Everett describes in his addendum to his Art as Mysticism post.

 

As always I am running out of time to post this so I leave it with a question. If art is mysticism and its true purpose is to explore this higher spiritual state, then how can those who do not live in mystical awareness and do not acknowledge spirituality interact with art? No I believe that his is one possibility but one that can only work for those who have strong belief in a spiritual world. For the rest of us art must and always be meaningless. It is in its meaninglessness that is thrives on being able to challenge our concepts of beauty, natural beauty, representation, creativity, productivity, style, design, all of these are aspects that in the end are there to entertain. When I have more time and for part two of this post I will dive more into why I believe art is and should be meaningless.

  

Huysmans


Placing journalism in art. Can you?

November 15, 2007

Can journalism be art? And by that I have no intentions as to how to respond to such an open-ended question. But for myself I am asking from a few discussions I have recently partaken in. There is the aesthetic element that goes into reporting the news, but also there is the literary element. How you write, how you express your opinions, how you organize what is written? All of these have aesthetic elements but do those elements make journalism art?

 

The newspaper became part of art with Picasso’s collage. Where is it now and can a journalist be an artist? What about a news reporter? Benjamin wrote that it was fascism that made politics art and thus created Triumph of the Will. But perhaps journalism had something to do with it as well.

 

 

I don’t have answers yet as to the connection between journalism and art, but at the very least I do not think they are completely separate.

 

 

Thoughts?