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Future of Cultural Criticism?


by Jerome Weeks 29 Sep 2008

Doug McLennan is the mind behind Artsjournal.com, one of the best arts-news websites and art blog collectives around. Confession: I blog there as book/daddy, but seeing as Doug has been doing this for nine years and Artsjournal.com gets 45,000 users per day, my estimation of his achievement has some basis. Amanda Neer of Life’s a […]

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Doug McLennan is the mind behind Artsjournal.com, one of the best arts-news websites and art blog collectives around. Confession: I blog there as book/daddy, but seeing as Doug has been doing this for nine years and Artsjournal.com gets 45,000 users per day, my estimation of his achievement has some basis. Amanda Neer of Life’s a Pitch interviewed him about cultural blogs and art criticism.

Here are some of his thoughts about the near-future of criticism and how newspapers have only hurt themselves:

When do you think newspapers will croak for good? At some point Jonny Greenwood or whomever is going to declare that Radiohead no longer wants to be reviewed in print because it’s bad for the environment, and that will be the end, right?

I think there are already artists and arts organizations that have given up on newspapers. Hard to argue with their logic. I don’t think newspapers will ever really go away. I do think that 2-3 years from now it will be the exception for local newspapers to have staff critics. They’ll still run some form of writing about culture. But it won’t mean much. Really a shame. I think newspapers have hurt themselves greatly by the ways they’ve come to think about arts coverage. There’s a huge audience out there, but newspapers have pursued a dumb strategy when it comes to A&E coverage.

I feel like I came to the blog party circa five years late. Ah well. Are blogs over? Close to over? What will be the next big thing?

Blogs aren’t over. But blogs don’t have some magical property. Blogs are merely a quick publishing platform that allows the world to see what you write. They’re like a pen is to paper – a tool that enables you to write. What you choose to do with it is entirely up to you. There are as many kinds of blogs as there are people. Some of the bigger blogs are starting to look more and more like traditional publications. Some traditional publications are looking more and more like blogs. Some are very journalistic. Many are like personal diaries.

What’s next? I think there won’t be a huge revolution. Changes will be incremental. Video, audio, collaborative. Etc. The next immediate thing is the explosion of mobile use and interactive multi-media. I think this will very much change the way we use the web today. It will make how we use the web/create for the web today seem like the Dark Ages. Any artist, arts organization or journalist who isn’t thinking about the way mobile use is going to change things, is going to be left in the dust.


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