Saturday, May 19, 2007

The Art of the Blog

Now that I am an award-winning blogist (see my recent post, Thinking Blogger Award Goes Here ↓), I feel an enhanced sense of responsibility (as Spider-Man maintains, with great power comes great responsibility) not only to the blogging community or blogosphere, or as I like to put it, the blogal village, and I want to give back to blogging since blogging has given so much of itself to me.

And so, I want to raise the question of how are we to consider, analyze and evaluate the blog as an art form. Now, awards such as the Thinking Blogger Award--hey, let's trot that one out again and take a moment to admire it...

...ahhh, that felt good, now where was I? Oh yes, awards such as this one, as far as I can tell, are given on the basis of the content of the blog, the material that blogists have written or displayed. Yes, such awards are based on more than the mere individual post, they point to the sum of all posts, the cumulative impression that the posts have made, but are the awards really based on the blog itself as a medium and a form? I think not.

Talking about the aesthetics of the blog seems like almost a contradiction in terms. Blog is such as ugly word. It's that sound, og! Sounds like ugh, ugly, argh, etc. I came across a cartoon in the Chronicle of Higher Education some months ago that cracked me up. It showed two cavemen (not the metrosexual Geico cavemen, mind you, real, honest-to-goodness cartoon cavemen), and one is saying to the other, "Someday your name will be a household word, Blog!" Yes, Blog would be an excellent name for a caveman--look out, Alley Oop!

So, blogs are downright blogly. And that is assonant with ugly, it is true, and remember that when you are assonant, you make an ass on an ant, or so I would assume. But blogly also sounds like godly, and you can hear the young people say, that's blogly dude, surf's up, let's catch the web. By the way, the Russian word for god is bog, and the Hebrew word for god is el, which yields the formula, bog + el = blog, the blog in the machine. So, maybe we can say that blogs can be sacred (the Talmud as a blog, the Bible itself as a blog--the Holy Biblog), some might even say that God is keeping a blog, and it is hidden somewhere online, and whoever finds it gains true enlightenment, but I don't think that Jerry Falwell would find that funny if he were still with us. So, I better keep this clean, because cleanliness is next to blogliness.

But, back to the aesthetics of the blog, when I made my own choices for the Thinking Blogger Awards, one of them was Douglas Rushkoff's Weblog, and you may note that Doug uses a longer version of the term, the longest being web log. Doug is joined in holy weblog due, no doubt, to an aesthetic decision--restoring the web syllable blunts the bl sound that we associate with the ugly more than the good or the bad. J. R. R. Tolkien believed that the sounds of words holds intrinsic meaning of this kind, as I noted in my essay on Tolkien, language, and media ecology that I posted previously (see Tolkiens of My Affection).

But, let's run counter to this stereotype and declare:

Blog is beautiful!

There, that felt good!

But, now, the original point of this post was to think (this being a thinking blog) about the aesthetics of the blog, and I am reminded of Marshall McLuhan's first book The Mechanical Bride: Folklore of Industrial Man which was a pioneering piece of popular culture analysis, and in many ways anticipated blogging itself in terms of its format--the book consists of numerous exhibits (ads, comics, and other popular culture items) followed by short analytical essays, arranged in no discernible linear order (out of print for decades, it was finally reprinted several years ago by Gingko Press in the aesthetically pleasing manner that is typical of their publications). In the first exhibit that appears in the book, McLuhan shows us the front page of the New York Times, and asks us to consider it, not as a source of information, not as a collection of separate articles, but in its entirety as an art form, a mosaic. He goes to point out the similarity between this form of popular art and cubism in modern art, as well as symbolist poetry, also noting the parallel to Einstein's theory of relativity (he would later trace all of these developments back to the original annihilation of time and space, the invention of the telegraph in 1844). In fact, the mosaic front page of the newspaper precedes those other developments in art and science, which raises the question, what forms of art, literature, and music might appear in the wake of the blog?

But, what of the blog itself. If McLuhan were with us today, I am certain that he would ask us to look at the blog itself as an art form, just as he asked us to do with the newspaper front page. So, taking McLuhan's media ecology approach myself, and understanding blogs to be an exercise in narcissism more often than not, I would say that blog as an art form is an expression of the ecology of the self, which includes the ecology of mind (to use Gregory Bateson's phrase).

The self-ecology of the blog may then be evaluated along the same lines as other types of ecologies, based on its sense of balance, interdependence, complexity, and evolution.

And that's it, sorry, there is no more that I have to say. Just, good night, and may blog guess us, each and every one...