Sunday, December 23, 2007

Blogging Art in 2007 - A Review (Part 2)

The Bigger Picture
describing where blogging art sits in a web 2.0 world

copyright Katherine Tyrrell - contact me for permission to reproduce

This is Part 2 of my review of blogging art in 2007. Part 1 focused on some blogging basics for art and illustrated blogs. In part 2 I'm looking at the wider context for blogging and blogging art , communities of interest in a web 2.0 world and the sphere of influence for art and illustrated blogs.

Above you can see what I’m calling “The Bigger Picture”. This is my initial effort at trying to describe what is happening to art, artists and the art economy within the context of a web 2.0 world. (Ask me if you want to reproduce this). I suggest you right click on the chart and open in a new tab or window if you want to see a much larger version and/or have it open while you read this post.

I thought it might be fun to see if we can produce a more refined version through comments and suggestions via this blog post.

OK – now I know a picture is worth a 1,000 words – but just in case you don’t get it let me try and explain!

The chart locates different types of people, from hobby artists to serious geeks to artists who sell for millions in their own life time (all notated in black) against various online activities (all notated in blue). The activities range between the static website and the web 1.0 type of regulated/moderated site to various web 2.0 applications which increasingly enable independence and instant communication.

In my model, this locates
  • artist websites and the more traditional moderated artist forums in the bottom left hand corner and using Twitter to communicate what you are doing minute to minute at the Venice Biennale or Art Basel at the top right.
  • Bottom left is the hobby artist without a computer. Once such artists get a computer they may also decide to get a website and/or join an art forum. More recently, artists new to the Internet are moving straight into blogging or joining a social community such as Facebook or Flickr. Many refer to their blog as their 'website'.
  • Bottom right are web 2.0 applications which are very popular with geeks who used to work for Microsoft (e.g. Linked In) – but don’t seem to have found many fans among artists.
  • Top left are artists who don’t own a computer and who sell for millions in their own lifetime!
  • Moving towards the top right are the ‘switched on’ galleries which have an IT/internet strategy which meshes completely with their marketing strategy for selling expensive art. Their galleries are online with private password protected sites, which only selected and approved clients can enter, where excellent images of artwork can be viewed prior to upcoming sales.
  • Sitting in the middle is the artist who can cope with computers and embraces what technology can do in relation to social communication with other artists and selling art online either independently or via an online gallery.
    • Within this middle zone the more traditional e-bay artist is bottom left....
    • ....and the Duane Keisers of this world are top right – initiating blogs linked to e-bay, subscription delivery of art to your inbox, podcasts of painting in the studio etc.
This is very far from a complete picture. Perhaps the most important thing to note is that there are obviously a number of overlaps between different activities and areas of interest. I’m hoping to find a way of representing these in a more refined version.

The broader context for blogging

Use of the internet and access to Broadband is continuing to expand.
According to OFCOM, Broadband take-up continues to increase in the UK with over half of all households connected at the end of 2006, putting the UK slightly ahead of the US for the first time.
In the UK and the US, women use the internet more often than men. In the US, 52 per cent of internet users are women and in the UK the internet is used equally by men and women except in the18-34 age group where women spend more time online than men (57 per cent compared with 43 per cent).
Accessing the internet from a mobile phone is also growing in popularity with usage other than for phone calls varying by country.

The number of blogs continue to grow
In a few short years, weblogs have come to represent the fundamental connected conversation of our pubic lives. The numbers involved have become very large: at Technorati we index over 65,000 blog posts an hour along with 2,800 fresh links a minute. Worldwide, we index over 100 million blogs.
Technorati Blog (December 4, 2007)
Blogs are now very popular in the USA.
Research shows that more than 12 million American adults currently maintain a blog, while more than 57 million read blogs.
2007 saw the world’s first, industry-wide blogging tradeshow last month in Las Vegas attended by thousands of bloggers and the corporations which are involved in the web 2.0 world.

The language of blogging
But not all blogs or blog posts are in English. In fact the majority are in Japanese/Chinese however the audiences for posts in these languages is very localised. David Sifry (forner CEO of technorati - who doesn't seem to have done a State of the Blogosphere post in 2007) indicated in October 2006 that the globalization of the blogosphere continues. Technorati data showed at that time that both English and Spanish languages are a more universal blog language than the other two most dominant language, Japanese and Chinese, which seem to be more regionally localized.

Too many sites / too much information
With sites expanding exponentially, finding a particular blog (like yours or mine) or a post (like this one) becomes very difficult.

I referred to the issues around indexing, directories and search in Part 1. There are mechanisms around, such as feedreaders, that are very good at serving up the latest post – but such posts are not necessarily the one that speaks with the most authority on a subject which you want to find out about or the one that has the most relevance to whatever you are interested in.

There are services like Technorati that try to attribute authority to different blogs – but I’m quite sure that this can be improved upon if for no other reason than the fact that at one point in 2007 my blog authority managed to go down at the same time as my subscribers, unique visitors and page views went up!

The environment for blogging in a web 2.0 world

In 2007, blogging is no longer the latest thing - by a very long way. The Techie geek bloggers are all beginning to move on to other modes of communication such Twitter, Pownce and Jaiku.

However, this is all happening at the same time as those who are slower to adopt new technology and are essentially non-technical are still getting to grips with their new home computer. A proportion of those who have got connected to broadband and learned how to access the internet might be thinking about investigating blogs.

It needs to be emphasised that for a lot of people blogging is still something new and something which needs exploring.

Is blogging over?
Some of the individuals in the bottom right hand corner of my chart – where the serious ‘geeks’ are located - are already questioning whether we've reached the end of blogging and suggesting it's now on the wane as people transfer their allegiance to social community sites like MySpace and Facebook.

However, blogging cannot be ‘over’ while there are still so many people who have yet to join in. In August this year, 'the man who does the cartoons' Hugh McLeod (Gaping Void) had two interesting posts which tackling blogging as an activity within a wider web 2.0 environment for communication. See
Blogging isn't for everybody. Web 2.0 is for everybody. Keeping a half-decent blog going is very time-consuming work. So of course there was a market for more time-friendly Web 2.0 apps, like Facebook and Twitter. That doesn't mean blogs will go away. It just means more opportunities for people to create and use new tools. The web stands still for nobody etc.
Hugh McLeod, Gaping Void - Why We’re All Blogging Less
In 2004, voters visiting the Merrian Webster website voted ‘blog’ as the Word of the Year. In 2007, on the same site, ‘Facebook’ came second in the competition for Word of the Year 2007.
UK adults spend more time on social networking sites than their European neighbours, with 4 in 10 UK adults saying that they regularly visit the sites. The UK adults who visit the sites spend an average of 5.3 hours each month on them and return to them an average 23 times in the month.
The use of social communities is increasing exponentially. Which particular social community holds sway in your country seems to vary depending on where you live.

Facebook seems to rule at the moment. From a standing start in 2004, (the year 'blog' was word of the year according to Merriam Webster) it's grown and grown and is now expected to have over 60 million members by the end of 2007.

Some of the innovations (eg Twitter) has had me smiling quite a few times in relation to people's attempts to find a new way of saying 'same old same old' in the side column of their blogs. I just don't 'get it' though in relation to how technology like this helps people who tend to relate to creative visual images.

Blogging Art in a web 2.0 world

Channels of communication
Last year, within the context of the general art world, I commented on blogs versus websites as ways of channelling information about artists and their work. I concluded that both are useful but that the blog was the only one to provide the 'virtual' experience of meeting the artist.

I'm now of the view that it's good to explore all the different channels that the Internet has to offer and to decide on a level of activity in different arenas which is appropriate to the time you have available - as there is no doubt that participation can swallow your time as I know only too well!

I've now got one website, two blogs, 18 squidoo lens, accounts on Flickr and Facebook, am a member of 4 groups dedicated to specific art interest on Google/Yahoo and periodically observe and occasionally participate in activities on more traditional artist forums. Phew!!! I don't yet Twitter - although some may disagree! ;) Within all of that this blog is undoubtedly the core activity in terms of both discussing art and posting my art. Everything else revolves around this blog as the hub.

The technological application emphasis in 2007 has frequently been on developing new applications which make communication more time-efficient. It's entirely possible that intense dialogue of the two line variety and notifications and alerts about what is going where might well be better suited to alternatives to blogging. I can well imagine that the 'painting a day' artists for example might well find an application which delivers the latest artwork to the mobile phone better than an e-mail subscription to a blog and a feedburner. I'm waiting to see what Duane comes up with!

Finding visual art blogs on the internet
It’s my belief that in 2007 we are becoming overwhelmed by the sheer number of ways people communicate about art online and the richness of the content which is out there.

What we desparately need is a way of accessing it more easily. I’m trying to do something in a very small, almost infinitesimal, way through the post I do each Sunday called “Who’s made a mark this week?” But much more needs to be done……..

Art and blogging art also doesn’t seem to be taken seriously by the geek community. Again and again the visual arts are ignored when categories for finding material are defined. Their preference is for film and photos (typically not related to ‘visual arts’) and these two formats dominate visual images on the net. As a result, the directory sites listing ‘art’ are frequently infiltrated by website owners whose sites really need to sit behind a filter!

Linking behaviour is one of the ways that artists can draw the attention of others to visual art images on the internet which are worth looking at or articles or blog posts which are worth reading or websites which are worth visiting. I’m a hard-boiled inveterate linker – I like sharing when I find something that is good and I like giving credit to people for things they’ve originated or found.

However linking activity and highlighting information through networks of sites is something that only seems to be understood within the web 2.0 world. Owners/Moderators of large web 1.0 forums are less enamoured with the idea of links being posted which may persuade people to travel out of and away from their site, especially when commercial considerations and advertising revenue is an issue. It’s enough to make me feel like I have to have two personas to communicate online. So in 2007, I ended up deciding to sit on the sidelines and observe web 1.0 communities and to make more time for participation in web 2.0 communities.

The commercial aspects of marketing art is changing (who's spotted Damien Hirst Adsense adverts?) with trends within the marketplace as a whole switching to a focus online and, in particular, using data associated with social communication sites for targeting focused adverts. OFCOM states that ……
Advertisers in the UK spend more money per person on internet advertising than any other country, at £33. This is twice as much as France, Germany and Italy combined. At 14 per cent of total revenues, spend in the UK on online advertising overtook magazine advertising for the first time and was more than the total spend on outdoor, cinema, and radio advertising combined.
Small groups of artists have taken to advertising as a group in the major art journals. The major journals are now making sure that they can reproduce their paid advertising online (eg American Art Journal).

Some bloggers now monetise their art blogs with Google AdSense adverts (and/or others) and some (I think) have paid by link icons and blog posts. I'm not averse to the latter so long as it's declared.

I value independence and am personally resisting adverts on my blogs and main website but recognise that it's an area to keep under review.

Internet communities
For me 2007 has been a year of projects, of development and of loose affiliations which have come and gone during the course of the year. I’ve taken to observing rather than participating in groups which largely comprise non-bloggers. For me blogging feels more like the real world, where the people I talk to are adults who are responsible for themselves and their actions and who don’t need ‘moderation’ by others beyond that deemed appropriate by the blog owner as 'host'.

During 2007, I began to have the notion that we maybe now need to develop a new conceptual model for how blogging could be used to provide a link between the looser web 2.0 affiliations of artists which exist on the internet in terms of eg. blogrolls, cyberchum groups, sketchcrawl communities et al and those communities of artists which exist back in the ‘real ‘world - such as artists and art groups based in a locality and national art societies.

In conclusion, my own feeling is that although many of us might now be members of a variety of community sites we still find a value in blogging about art and the discussion of art, artists, different approaches and the range of art resources available to us. I know I very much value the trips I can take in space and artistic development alongside my chums and others in the art blogging community.

Long may our blogs continue to offer independence and individuality in which to display our art and discuss our art interests!

How do you see the big picture for blogging about art in 2007 - and what do you think have been the big changes in 2007? Please leave a comment on any of the above and tell me what you think.

[This is a first draft of explaning how I see the big picture - and I've got to go and do the big food shop for Christmas(!) - so I'm going to take the unusual step of reviewing and maybe revising this post later if I feel an edit could make points made any clearer or if I notice I've left out anything important which makes it make more sense! Do let me know if anything doesn't make sense!

I'm also going to try and revise the chart according to my thoughts and comments received and will post a second version at the end of this post before 31st December. You may see early drafts of a revised version appearing sooner than that. Do check back to see what if anything changes!