Sunday, September 26, 2004

Sometimes the newspapers are very kind to us. Here's an article in the New York Times, Sunday Magazine today, called "Fear and Laptops on the Campaign Trail." It addresses the question of whether or not blogs are journalism (it runs under the tagline: "Are bloggers ruining political journalism or recharging it?"). This is one of the evaluatory "positions" (so-called after Eve Sedgwick and her new work in Touching Feeling) on blogs that I discussed in my recent AoIR 5.0 talk and which I'll be talking about again in Perth, Australia later this year.

It's no surprise that the article asserts (with blinding self-obviousness, ala Althusser and interpellation) that "successful" blogs are blogs with lots of (quantifiable) readers, which already, in just that inconspicuous, seemingly uncontentious claim, does the major work of defining 1. what a blog is (a vehicle for self-promotion, therefore authorially aligned with an Author), 2. how it works (by seducing readers into acts of consumption), 3. how it succeeds and fails (see above; thereby asserting THAT success and failure are relevent or applicable terms), and 4. how it operates at a cultural level (by disseminating itself like websites or books or newspapers or "regular" journalism, etc.). The rest of the article is colouful detail and repetition of claims.


Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Nina, Kat and I are all just back from the Association of Internet Researchers Annual Conference (AoIR 5.0). On the eve of the resuscitation of my own work on blogs and personal photography (I take up my new grant on Oct. 1), I tried to see most of the blog papers. Again and again, my reaction was to feel as though the debates and problems being aired in relation to blogs were not my debates and problems. This kind of estrangement happens between disciplines and in that sense, I'm not surprised--nevertheless, I was surprised. Some disciplines are, of course, closer than others: they share methods, theory, favourite authors and important historical points of reference. Others, which one might think to be nearer relations (e.g the disciplines which have taken up blogs), in fact overlap very little. In a sense, that's all fine and this isn't a complaint. After all, the fact that we're all working on blogs guarantees no kind of complementarity. On the other hand, what if I want to create lines of connection with those researchers, e.g. the ones approaching blogs through quantitative methods, or through the framework of "Uses and Gratifications" theory (something I'd not heard anything about until the conference this year, where it turned up as a popular way to link bloggers with their motivations)? I've spent a fair bit of time working closely and collaboratively with disciplines that aren't my own (e.g. design, art), so the problem isn't in that solely. But so far I'm flummoxed on this one. This is a wider gulf than I'm used to encountering. I need to think more about it, look over my notes from the blog talks, and possibly strike up some more detailed conversations.


Thursday, September 16, 2004

newcastle bridge

newcastle bridge
newcastle bridge,
originally uploaded by Damen and Walton.
Another test from flickr. Neat.


This is a test post from flickr, a fancy photo sharing thing.

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

I am at the Ubicomp conference in Nottingham. Yesterday I had the opportunity to participate and present at the Urban Frontier workshop run by Eric Paulos and Ken Anderson of Intel PAPR. Although it was a long day, with many many 8mins presentations and question time, it was really interesting to see so many different presentation styles, disciplinary approaches and projects. The workshop featured anthropologists, sociologists, designers, computer scientists, architects, urban planners and artists. Some projects were interesting, some less so, but overall it was very enjoyable. I received some thought provoking questions that will help me frame my work going forward given the Routemaster was officially retired last Friday night. I also had the chance to talk with Dr Janet Abrams, the Director of the Design Institute at the University of Minnesota. She gave a fascinating and deliberately controversial opening keynote presentation this morning - Ubiquity/Urbiquity: the B.U.G. and other Ludic(rous) Pursuits. Amongst other things she challenged the concept of ‘ubiquitous computing’ and the ‘user’ - specifically asking why we need more technology, everywhere, why every encounter has to be mediated by a digital device, why users tend to be flavourless, anonymous and cut from the same cloth and what adding an extra layer to everyday encounters actually delivers. It was a great critical start to the conference given the posters and demonstrations of all the new, innovative and sexy applications and devices had just been set up in the entrance halls.
- kat