Martyn Smith on Blogs as a Platform

When our writer friend Jim started telling us about blogs in 1997 and 1998, they required an intimidating level of  expertise and money to design and host. They seemed inaccessible to the majority of artists and scholars--especially those without access to the resources of institutions. Within a few years, the earliest bloggers developed dedicated, almost obsessed, audiences. Keeping their blogs current became their life and they became experts in an emerging and not-fully-comprehended-new-mediascape. Subsequently, blogs proliferated as Internet service improved and social media platforms became easier. What role might blogs play in the 21st century?  Martyn Smith, Assistant Professor of Religious Studies, has been interested in blogs as a research platform and a method of sharing knowledge within academia and in the emerging field of Digital Humanities (although Smith is more interested in Digital Globalism than Digital Humanities). He maintains Old Roads Blog, giving him an online space to publish his "interpretations of places, books, and other texts." The blog platform enables him to share his findings on topics in his field in real time as well as connect with other scholars. Blogs, he believes will be more sustainable inthe future than expensive academic journals, costly conferences or books such as his own Religion, Culture and Sacred Space published in 2008. He envisions scholars increasingly exchanging their findings and opinions on current events through blogs or even group blogs where multiple academics post regularly with all posts being subject to peer review. He is well aware that all of this is not without problems, yet he remains engaged and is throughtful about the possibilities.  Lev Manovich, who writes on digital culture and in 2007 founded the Software Studies initiative at UC San Diego and Calit2, wrote in an essay titled "Art after Web 2.0" (published in The Art of Participation): "In the case of social media, the unprecedented growth in the number of people uploading and viewing one another's media has led to a lot of innovation. Although the typical diary or anime on YouTube may not be that special, enough are. In fact in nearly every medium in which the technologies of production have been democratized (including video, music, animation, and graphic design), I have encountered many projects that not only rival those produced by the best-knwon commercial companies and professional artists, but also often explore new areas not yet touched on by those with more symbolic capital." Are you taking social media seriously and striving to be a good "net citizen"? Here's a video by Dr. Michael Wesch, Kansas State University, called "Web 2.0...the Machine is Us/Ing Us" illustrating ways users shape the web.

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