Re: [-empyre-] bloggers sink the systemic star

Henry, much good stuff in your post and much with
which I agree.  I'll only comment on the following,

--- Henry Warwick <> wrote:
> So, any ideas that blogging or even being on the
> internet at all are feeding some kind of devolution
> of power in contemporary political economy is, IMHO,

> wishful thinking.

Agreed, but they can at least temorarily nudge things
in different directions until established powers catch
up to newer technologies.

Example: in the art world there is a current buzz that
art criticism is in a crisis; dealers and collectors
have the real make or break power, and much
"criticism" is really just commentary or observation-
critics really don't define movements, the market
does.  And, supposedly, the overall quality of art
writing has declined (not sure I agree with that). 
Criticism, some say, is becoming irrelevant,
especially as the art world, the big art world of NY
and Art|Basel and a million other art fairs and
biennials, becomes increasingly about entertainment,
investment, and social interaction.  In some ways in
these settings the art is just an object around which
these interactions can take place.

At the same time there hope has been expressed that
weblog writers who are covering a scene-- usually
fairly local coverage (a fine example is the
Philadelphia Artblog
[])--  will
get better at what they do, grow an audience, and
wrestle away whatever authority the art magazines
have, which has mostly been bolstered by ads which
occupy perhaps 60-75% of any issues total pages.  The
idea is that art critics writing in weblogs will write
without the same commercial interests as the magazines
and will actually write about the true variety of art
that is being produced.

That sounds nice, and it may work for a short while. 
But it's difficult to maintain- it's too hard to
consistently produce good criticism, much less decent
writing and meaningful, thoughtful reviews, without
editors, wages, technical support, press credentials,
and travels expenses. 

Here's a scenario- 

- among the ranks of these volunteer critics are a
very few who have the chops, interest, and stamina to
become good, informed, observant, critical writers.

- the magazines, already seeing the same declining
subscription rates as other kinds of publications,
will move operations increasingly to the web in some
form- web site, weblog, PDF- or even perhaps become
hybrids that more frequently publish the smaller
tidbits (and could move to bimonthly or quarterly

- the volunteer critics are then ripe for plucking and
are offered positions with the magazines as part of
their online presence; sure beats doing it all

- a very small number of volunteer critics could
conceivably go the Daily Kos route, which is to do
such a good job and build such enormous readership
that funding makes continued independence possible.

>From what I can tell ths scenario above has happened
with Tyler Green's Modern Art Notes.  He used to
maintain his own weblog, eventually joined Arts
Journal ( where his
"weblog" is now maintained (I question whether it is
still a weblog because it is now subsumed under a
brand name), and also now writes as the "art critic
for Bloomberg News."  Except he's not really a critic,
he's a reviewer (these are not the same thing, as his
writing indicates); I also think his writing on MAN
has declined to gossip, links, and commentary.  He
does, however, still act as a valuable watchdog for
museum ethical, business, and staffing practices.

Overall, the power shift is only temporary, but it
forces the establishment publications to change their
operations.  You've heard this story before: ITunes is
just establishment's catching up to the Wild West days
of Napster and still profiting.

I do wonder if one effect of art magazines' catching
up to art criticism weblogging would indicate a demand
for covering a wider variety of art than the magazines
typically do cover.  If there is an effect I think
it's only temporary; it's not usually in big media's
best business interests to be truly diverse.

On the other hand, maybe weblogs are just another kind
of alternative space.  They come and go.  The big
commercial galleries and well-funded museums with rich
board members last.


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