artistic unknowns by Chris Matarazzobooks & writing

The art of blogging: Is it flourishing or foundering?

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There are those who say that there are those who say that blogging is dying out. I put it this way, because I have never read an article explaining what, exactly, is meant by this, but the impression I get is that people think Twitter and the quicker (and, in my opinion, more anemic) forms of Internet communication are stealing all of the intellectual traffic from the good, old-fashioned (hey, it only takes a couple of months these days) blog. But the reason I can’t accept this is because I don’t know what the hell a blog is. Do you?

Don’t give me that smug look, you madcap prankster. You don’t know what a blog is either. And, no, checking Wikipedia is not going to provide the answer; but, okay, we’ll take a look:

Blogs are usually maintained by an individual with regular entries of commentary, descriptions of events, or other material such as graphics or video. Entries are commonly displayed in reverse-chronological order.

This makes sense, I suppose. That’s the way most of them work. But the content of blogs is so diverse that to say they are “dying out” is almost to say that people are going to stop saying diverse things in a free medium that offers instant world-wide publication. What are the chances of that happening?

I see a lot of things online that I enjoy reading. They all call themselves — or are referred to as — “blogs.” But, will the real blog stand up? Is When Falls the Coliseum a blog? Is our own Frank Wilson’s Books. Inq., with its copious intellectual and literal connections to all things literary, a blog? Is How to Be A Retronaut a blog (love it, by the way)? How about my wife’s blog, ReFocus/ReFrame? — or family blogs? — or blogs teachers use for classes? — or a blog like The Kingston Lounge that is dedicated to the history of architecture in stunning pictures and commentary? — or, the fabulously interesting Letters of Note? — Maverick Philosopher? I could go on for quite some time and never show two blogs that are similar, beyond that fact that they sort of meet the definition above.

My point is, if we can’t define what a blog is, how can we say that blogging is dying out? Of course, the term “dying,” in this case, is a matter of perception. If the numbers of bloggers is down, one might claim the activity is “dying” but if the art is still vibrant, one could say, numbers be damned, it is flourishing. (Less painters today than a century ago, in my book, doesn’t mean that painting isn’t a vibrant art form — five geniuses in New York can easily be the center of an artistic movement that changes history.)

Can we call blogging an art form? Certainly, blogs can contain — and do contain — artistic writing, along with art, music and photography. So, yeah, we sure as hell can. Or, rather,we should call it a medium, if not a form — because, as I said, it’s hard to pin formal properties on blogging. (Poetry, for instance, is an art form, but within it, there are sonnets, free-verse, villanelles, sestinas, prose poems — many forms and variations.) The result of using the tools that blog sites offer (colors on a palette?) is expression that encompasses words along with sound and image.

I guess we humans will always choose the easy path. Facebook is easy; Twitter is easier. But to say that they are replacing blogging seems foolish, because blogging, to me, can be summed up in one phrase: expression without boundaries. Through blogs, people are expressing themselves in ways that they define for themselves. 

I have to wonder if, centuries from now, there won’t be a section in the Norton Anthology of World Literature called “Bloggers of the Early Twenty-First Century.”

Some of my thinking on this is half-baked, I’ll admit.  As a lifelong writer, I have only been a blogger for a little while, so I am still exploring the possibilities of the medium and I am still defining my own place within it. It would be interesting to hear different perspectives, from bloggers and WFTC readers, on blogging as an art and on its future in the this quick-changing world.

Chris Matarazzo’s ARTISTIC UNKNOWNS appears every Tuesday

Chris Matarazzo is a writer, composer, musician and teacher of literature and writing on the college and high school levels. His music can be heard on his recent release, Hats and Rabbits, which is currently available. Chris is also the composer of the score to the off-beat independent film Surrender Dorothy and he performs in the Philadelphia area with the King Richard Band. He's also a relatively prolific novelist, even if no one seems to care yet. His blog, also called Hats and Rabbits, is nice, too, if you get a chance...
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6 Responses to “The art of blogging: Is it flourishing or foundering?”

  1. Personally, the aspect I appreciate most about the blog format/medium/what-have-you is the idea that you can enter something into the public domain that can – ideally – be spread by the virtue of its own merit.

    Besides, it’s giving a lot of people a place to examine their thoughts, which is medicinal in its own right.

    Also, I consider online art portfolios and webcomics to be of the same ilk – especially those that aren’t necessarily for profit. How does that fall into your definition?

  2. It fits well, Nicky — I agree with all of it. It is nice that there is a medium that bypasses the stuffed-shirts that formerly served as the gatekeepers of the arts. What you said is really dead-on: the work can “spread on its own merit.” That’s cool.

  3. The prototype for a blog for me is Sei Shonagon’s Pillow Book – just *stuff* gathered in one place. She, though, didn’t have the opportunity to link to cute cat videos on YouTube. :)

    Is blogging flourishing or floundering? For my blog, the latter. I’ve run out of things to say (at the moment). And personal blogs always seem to splutter with apologies saying “Sorry, I’ve been bad and not posted for ages.”

    I like the idea of the Norton Anthology. :) We just need a way to ensure that blogger/wordpress/etc don’t pull the plug like Geocities.

    PS I still read blogs… came here via Books Inq.!

  4. Glad you found us! Yeah — people still read blogs. That’s the thing. Maybe we need to distinguish between the decline following a hot trend and a real decline in strength. Here’s hoping your blog rides out the storm. Thanks for reading and commenting.

  5. Neither. It’s just finally getting past the “gee whiz!” phase of any new media, and starting to grow up.

    That means a lot of the shallowest users have already moved on to the Next New Thing, as they always do, while the more serious bloggers are growing into something deeper, more like Montaigne intended with his essays.

    The restless, cutting edge (so sharply on the edge of things they often end up cutting themselves to shreds) will always be impatient (and shallow) and want to move on to the Next New Thing, the next fashionable wave of fads. These are almost always the folk who most loudly proclaim the death of an existing form, or technology. They’re almost always wrong.

  6. Well said, Art. I completely agree. I like the expression “the ‘gee whiz’ phase.” Perfect.

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