Meta Blog Art

Three nested circles

Christy’s previous post on Linkoln and Olsen’s new Blog Art project (in particular, the question of whether or not it was the first blog exhibition of blog art) got me thinking about the function of ‘meta’ relationships in blog-art.

How do we describe examples of blog-art (art made with blogs), and what if anything is new in Blog Art (the project) being a meta-collection of art objects which are themselves collections?

First, a description of the Blog Art project as a function:

( blog ( blog-art ) )

and then my provisional restatement:

( blog ( blog ( art ) ) )

Described in this second way, the Blog Art project is an example of meta-activity. The same process of blogging which was used the formation of the art object is used as the critical apparatus which describes it. This is comparable to journal articles about literature ( write ( write ( art ) ) ), “making of” documentaries on fictional films ( film ( film ( art ) ) ), and all the other media-reflexive commentaries which usually imply a rich underlying culture of art activity to support them.

Pinpointing where the ‘meta’ begins with blogs is difficult, however. By their nature, most blogs tend to excerpt, roll, and ping each other - there is always a background hum of ‘meta’ going on in any blog which is fully connected to the blogosphere, such that all sorts of blogs will blog about blogs which blog about art. When we follow the traces of trackbacks and pingbacks, we find that many blog entries could be expressed as:

( blog ( blog ( blog … ( blog ( art ) … ) ) ) )

This is part of the referential nature of blogging, in which, like hyperlinking, meta-reference becomes so ubiquitious as to be unremarkable. So what is the significance of the first blog on blog-art, when most blog-art was massive blogged within days of its inception? One significance might be the focus - we can specify a more explicit ‘meta’ by eliminating all blogs with heterogeneous content.

Instead, the only candidates for the first meta blog-art will be blogs which consist *only* other blogs, which themselves are *only* comprised of art… or are artful, perhaps. Let’s leave the inner definition suspended for now. Ironically, attempting to assume rigidly disciplined criteria for the contents and sources of the meta-blog is quite an un-blog-like approach. Is a blog which rigidly excludes heterogeneous content even a blog at all? Asking this question calls attention to the already un-blog-like aspects of many blog art projects.

( blog? ( blog? ( art ) ) )

For example, one listing at Blog Art is Post Secret, which uses the Blogger service to sequentially publish a list of images in reverse chronological order. Yet Post Secret entries lack the authorial voice, external linking, and many other qualities that distinguish a blog from any sequential digital publication forum like a Post Secret Moderated Listserv or a Post Secret Bulletin Board. Neither Post Secret nor the Blog Art site bear much resemblance to Dave Weiner’s description of a blog as the authentic voice of an individual - nor to Merriam-Webster’s definition of a blog as “a Web site that contains an online personal journal with reflections, comments and often hyperlinks.”

Instead, Post Secret seems to follow the Jill/txt definition of weblog for the Routledge Encyclopedia of Narrative Theory. Where Weiner asserts that a page on the BBC website is a weblog if it has the voice, even if it lacks many of the formal technical features of a weblog, Jill Walker makes the opposite move, bracketing style in favor of the form:

“A weblog, or blog, is a frequently updated website consisting of dated entries arranged in reverse chronological order so the most recent post appears first (see temporal ordering). Typically, weblogs are published by individuals and their style is personal and informal.”

The Wikipedia entry for Weblog (accessed 2005-08) concurs with Walker in prefering form to style, describing “a web-based publication consisting primarily of periodic articles (normally in reverse chronological order).” Before cataloging a variety of styles, the entry outlines a history that describes the culture of blogging as arising in response to enabling technologies - rather than those technologies arising to meet some cultural demand.

Venn diagram

From this we can see a Venn diagram of blogging emerging, with the technical layer of network behavior (A) on one hand, and the social use and content stylistics (B) on the other hand.

Most definitions generally start with one of these terms as the definitive characteristic, then admit the other as the supplemental term, an important but lesser part of the picture. For Walker, anything (A) is a blog, and they are “typically” (B) as well. For Weiner, (A) is typical… but all blogs turn out to be defined by (B), regardless. Whichever side is priveledged by the definer as the essential one, most blogs are agreed to lie in the intersection of the two sets.

Yet the “artfulness” of art is often precisely a deviation from the norms of the context - and so I would venture that many blog art projects lie in the non-intersection, either as experimentations using the technical layer of blogware to aggregate artful content, but without direct social participation as an authorial voice (Post Secret), or else as the artful re-presentation of an original authorial voice - for example, Pepys Diary, but without a Pepy’s persona participating in the network layer (commenting on other blogs, sending trackbacks, etc.) Blog fictions that do both, making a representation and engaging as an identity, are more rare, and for good reason - projects like The Darth Side: Memoirs of a Monster are time-consuming performances.

This is not to say that either Post Secret or Pepys is deficient or should be changed, just that both are difficult to assimilate under the same rubric unless we decide on a definition of blogs and blog art which is both specific and inclusive. Commenting on Mirriam-Webster’s Weiner-like definition of ‘blog’ (“a Web site that contains an online personal journal with reflections, comments and often hyperlinks”), columnist Jon Udell’s reaction was “yes, AND”:

The dictionary definition of “blog” is correct, but it says nothing about the network in which the blog participates.“

Blog art may be both or neither, and blog ( blog ( art ) ) may as well. For now, the Blog Art project is certainly participating in the network. After all, I’m blogging about it.

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