Blogging Toward the Arts

Just about everyone by this time, I suppose, has heard of blogging, the act of keeping a Web journal, often accompanied by links to related online articles, photos, or Web sites. Weblogs, blogs for short, first appeared in the late 1990s. Early on, they were a geeky pastime that served mostly as a method to pass on interesting Web links to a small circle of like-minded readers.

In the early days of blogging a blogger had to have the technical skills to create a Web page. This hurdle kept the number of blogs to a minimum. It wasn't long, however, before user-friendly software appeared that made blogging little more than a simple cut and paste operation. That breakthrough, coupled with the fact that the numbers of people visiting the Web grew rapidly in those years, contributed to a colossal increase in blogging. Before long everyone and their grandmother was blogging away, documenting their daily lives and commenting on their children, pets, the media, politics, sex, sports, and, of course, the arts.

Today, thousands of blogs exist on the Web, and, as you might guess, the quality varies. Most blogs have links to other blogs so it can be fun to follow links from one blogger to another until you have traveled quite a distance in cyberspace. Of course, it also can be an enormous time sink. Suddenly, after the sun goes down, you realize that you are reading some middle-school student's diary of his math class.

Although blogs so far have been little more than a hobby, some people are promoting their use as a knowledge management tool. An organization that wants to capture and organize information about its work can create blogs for its employees who make regular entries describing what they are doing and what they have learned in the course of doing it. Search engines can then be employed to extract entries that touch upon particular topics. This retrieved information can be reviewed, organized into a collective record, and preserved for future use.

Blogging is essentially writing a public journal with links to related materials and the potential to get immediate feedback in the form of email or Web-based comments from your readers. Here are a few places you can visit to learn more about blogging and see what the fuss is about.


Blog Central at ArtsJournal.com
http://www.artsjournal.com/blogs/

Blog Central now has a dozen people writing commentary on music, archi-tecture, arts management, media, visual arts, culture, and dance. Most of the commentators write regularly for other print and Web-based pub-lications. Greg Sandow, for instance, who writes about classical music, also writes for the Wall Street Journal and the Webzine New Music Box. Dance critic Tobi Tobias, who now writes dance reviews for the Village Voice, is a former editor of Dance magazine and dance critic for New York magazine. Visual arts writer John Perreault, who calls his blog an art diary, has been an art critic for the Village Voice and the Soho News. Not all bloggers at Blog Central have journalism credits, however. Drew McManus writes about orchestra administration and is a tuba player, pianist, and arts administrator. And Tyler Green earns a living as a political consultant in Washington DC while writing about modern and contemporary art for artnet.com and Black Book magazine.


Guardian Unlimited: Special Report on Blogs
http://www.guardian.co.uk/online/weblogs

The Guardian's online site is a good place to begin learning about blogging and finding some interesting blogging sites. The British newspaper assembled a glossary of blogging terms, reviews of blogging software, and has given out awards for the best of British blogging in 2003. To show how mainstream blogging has become, the Guardian reported recently that the Labour Party is considering giving Tony Blair his own blog for the next general election in order to create "an engaging dialogue with the British people."


Ron Silliman's Blog
http://ronsilliman.blogspot.com

Blogs, of course, are a writer's medium. It shouldn't be a surprise, then, to find blogs like Ron Silliman's Blog on poetry and poetics. This is, after all, a writer, who has been writing a multi-volumed poem, "The Alphabet," since 1979. Silliman has filed many entries to his online journal since he began writing it in August 2002. Recently, Silliman has written about his reading habits and the death of poet Gil Ott.


Brian's Culture Blog
http://www.brianmicklethwait.com

Brian Micklethwait is a man of many interests. Writing from somewhere apparently within the U.K. (biographical information is hard to find on Brian) he maintains a "culture" blog, which often contains photos he has taken him-self or reproductions of paintings. He also keeps an "education" blog and writes frequently for samizdata.net, a libertarian Web site with a sense of humor.


ArtNotes
http://www.artnotes.org

Written by an anonymous woman living in the New Orleans area, this blog contains short comments and links to and articles about museums and galleries she has visited. Recent entries include a link to a page from the Ernie Wolfe Gallery in Los Angeles with photos of fantasy coffins from Ghana and reviews of some shows in Berlin and Amsterdam she visited during the holidays.


NewFrontEars
http://newfrontears.blogspot.com

Simon Barrow, a young British theologian and writer, maintains this frequently updated blog about music of all types but with a slant toward classical and jazz. His blog emphasizes links to newspaper and magazine articles rather than extended personal commentary. His January 16, 2004 entry about the BBC's broadcast of John Cage's "silent" composition, 4'33'', shows a nice touch.

Stan Hutton is program officer at the Clarence E. Heller Charitable Foundation and co-author of the Nonprofit Kit for Dummies.