Theoretically, of course, the two applications are complementary. On one hand, you publish writings/pictures on your blog, on the other, you publicise it through Facebook, Twitter etc. Blogs have more space and format options for content. All FB is really good for is finding an audience, because of their specialised search and profiling software. They can find the friends you’ve never had. This also identifies you for targeted advertising, as you‘ll have noticed. But the main objection bloggers make is that they can’t attract enough visitors or followers, without themselves becoming a visitor or follower of other blogs/sites. And this is still, as I said on the PaintersNYC thread, the main problem with social networking – you may make ‘friends’, attract followers on FB or a Blog, but the deal cuts both ways: you’re expected to follow another, in order that they follow you. And there are only so many hours in the day for reading, visiting, attending social functions. Who has time to be the faithful follower to all your new friends, when you’re busy planning on leading them somewhere of your own devising? Networking sounds good for taking you somewhere, but don’t expect everyone to be at home when you call, don’t expect too many callers when you get home.
And Facebook ‘friends’ may build impressive hit stats for advertisers, but – Catch 22 - you’re going to need a reputation, to build a bigger one. People get to be ‘friends’ with celebs on FB, but don’t expect them to be ‘friends’ with you. The hero worship is strictly one-way. Discussion there becomes not much more than gossip, endorsement, unless you want to be de-friended.
Originally, blogs were supposed to provide open access to web publication – anyone could say or show anything, within reason. But once bloggers started taking their publications seriously, they wanted it to be a business. If they were writing public commentary or criticism, just as others did in the paying press, then they wanted a return on their efforts. Hence the impetus for advertising on blogs, and the ensuing compromises on site layout and space, and inevitably, content. And with the anxiety to maintain or increase hits/readership, a blogger soon finds blogging is all-consuming. What you might have started out blogging about takes second place to its promotion. Running your own publication can run you into the ground.
A few years ago, the press complained that bloggers were practising journalism for free, that this undermined the whole integrity of the press. The proof is in the pudding, I’d say. Blogs like PaintersNYC offered very harsh appraisals of some established reputations, but generally just returned judgement to common sense, occasionally technical terms, at odds with loftier post-modernist themes, critical theory. I’d say PNYC’s popularity did influence art criticism slightly, in NY at least. For instance, Art in America over the past few years has definitely shifted to more incisive or negative terms in many of its reviews. The same critics there now feel free to point out failings for works, along with success. This could be just the result of its change in Editor-in-Chief, to Marcia E. Vetrocq, but I suspect awareness of the competition has played its part. While most blogs on contemporary art are often misinforming, trivial or a waste of time, there are still enough to demonstrate that there are other approaches, and other art to be approached, worth consideration. The real contests now are about the legitimacy of on-line publications, whether these are included or accepted as a general discourse on art criticism, or whether ‘legitimate’ art criticism is to be confined to a small number of print publications, their online satellites.
The changes so far have been small. Most online art criticism apes its print parents, legitimately or illegitimately, anyway. Many bloggers take their model of criticism from the columns of someone like Jerry Salz or Adrian Searle. They want to emulate them, not oppose them. They’re actually aiming for the middle of the road, safe art. At best, they can offer careful reviews of galleries, artists, otherwise ignored. But galleries are reluctant to acknowledge such publications, lest they antagonise bigger players from the print teams. I can attest to this. Over the years, I have approached several prestigious galleries, offering links to reviews of their artists or shows not covered in quite the same way, or at all. I’ve always been shunned. Whether this was because they were just too thick to appreciate what I was actually saying in the articles and to see the value in the appraisals, or just too afraid to acknowledge sources not vouched for by the establishment, or both, I cannot say. But this is where push comes to shove, or criticism gives way to private privilege and indulgence.
Everyone agrees art is important and has meaning for society in general, but once the spadework starts to uncover that, and salute the digger, the rest of the party get nervous about their own contributions. They want interpretation, but only if it confirms their judgements, consolidates vested interests. Collectors and dealers want to feel like experts in more than profits, and so they end up nervously adjusting their tastes to the consensus of a narrow and niggardly peer group. They pretend to make judgements, the way a Pavlov dog decides to salivate when it hears the bell. This is why people become convinced of an institutional theory of art, or art decided by a circle of authorities. The trouble with the theory is that the circle depends on other circles, not all circles are open to the same members and not all circles are strictly open or closed to just members. In other words, institutions are not quite as airtight or exclusive as the theory would suppose. But this is not to say there aren’t circles; that they do not exercise a modicum of power, and that rich people do not get to pretend they’re clever. It’s just that reason only goes so far, criticism has its limits and to pursue either beyond this takes patience and luck and finally politics or religion.
The same might be said for the efficacy of social networking.