Monday, January 11, 2016

Kiosk Media

Berenice Abbott, Newsstand, 32nd St., 1935. Courtesy MOMA
Iranian blogger Hossein Derakhshan was jailed for his political blog posts about seven years ago (that's about when I started blogging), and was kept away from the Internet during that time. He's free now, and he wrote an article in Medium describing his reaction to how the Internet has changed since his imprisonment.

Fewer people, he observes, are spending time exploring open websites and blogs. Instead we are spending our online time inside the walled gardens of Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, where links are often discouraged. Derakhshan argues that "linkiness" is an essential value of the internet that we're losing. Instead of actively searching via the browser and surfing from link to link, the internet experience has become more passive, with apps presenting content that computer algorithms choose for you based on your previous interests.

Because Facebook, Instagram and Twitter all favor short content and quick reactions, he says they don't really foster reasoned discussion and the opportunity for debate free from government and corporate oversight.
Poster kiosk via ClickFix

Since I'm not a political blogger, I'm not personally as worried about that last point, but I think it's a valid concern. I also think he has a point about the kind of discussion that happens on blogs vs. other channels of communication. But I'm not as discouraged as he is.

In 2015 I expanded to Twitter and Instagram, and I keep up daily posts on Facebook. People call those "social media," but somehow "social" doesn't seem like the best metaphor to me. I prefer to think of them as "kiosk media." You pin your little poster on the kiosk in the public square, and maybe people see it or maybe they don't, but it soon gets covered over by another poster.

Unlike Mr. Derakhshan I enjoy the witty, quick comments that appear there as much as I enjoy the more considered opinions. Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are valuable for sharing images, reaching new people, and gauging reaction to artwork.

What I like least about the kiosk media is that yesterday's post is gone tomorrow. Because everything is behind a password wall, it's not open to search. It may make a momentary sensation, but not a lasting one. By contrast, the information and images archived on Blogger, YouTube, and Pinterest are available for discovery weeks, months, or years later by people who are not subscribed to your feed.

Rembrand't Night Watch with museum visitors
photographer unknown, thanks, Roger
That's why I'm certainly not about to give up on blogging, as many people have. The GurneyJourney blog and my YouTube channel are still the centerpiece of my efforts on the web. The traffic on this blog has held steady over the years, and although it hasn't grown as fast as the kiosk media, it's still robust. Anyway, the quantity of traffic doesn't matter as much as the quality of the exchange of ideas. Thanks to your input in the comments, I've grown and learned as much as you have. I have always found your comments and links thoughtful, funny, and interesting.

If you spend time at Instagram, Pinterest, FacebookTwitter, and YouTube, please check out my channels there. I've got lots of ideas for 2016 for new things that work best in those environments.
"The Web We Have to Save: The rich, diverse, free web that I loved — and spent years in an Iranian jail for — is dying." by Hossein Derakhshan


margplum said...

I still blog as well and it allows for a different format - lots of text and storytelling. I like the other media as well, but my problem as a consumer (rather than a creator) is that it's hard to track everything if it's spread out. You've been very consistent about linking from FB to the full story on the blog - thanks for that! Do you plan on making one medium the hub - a go-to place that links to the others? That would be quite helpful.

James Gurney said...

Thanks, Marg, I'll try to make sure to link up the various posts.

Robert Michael Walsh said...

Thanks for the MoMA Berenice Abbott link from the newsstand picture. I was not familiar with her before, but I'm a fan now.

Dustin Wilson said...

I think your description of social media as "kiosk" media makes sense. I think that applies more to Twitter than to Facebook especially. I'm active on Twitter and enjoy the small talk, but like Mr. Derakhshan I don't quite like seeing the internet's being compartmentalized into separate walled gardens. I've seen many give up on blogging in favor of short, pithy comments on Twitter or if they still do blog they blog on Medium where it has been somewhat successful in swallowing up remaining bloggers into its walled garden.

Before Facebook et al arrived we all had our separate blogs, but people could subscribe to our RSS feeds and read them all in one location. Now people use Facebook and especially Twitter for that. I'm glad you won't be following the trend and moving all your content to Facebook behind a login screen. I really enjoy your blog. I don't always comment, but I do read everything you write.

Carmel said...

Please don't stop blogging. Your daily email is one of the art highlights of my day.

I have accounts with most Social Media groups but only blog once a week and perhaps check Instagram. I would rather take a walk or go sketching.

Thank you for sharing what you know.

doug goodale said...

Your blog is as Carmel said "one of the art highlights of my day".
The way it is organized makes it easy to find information on various topics. I also like the fact that I can view posts from the past.

larry said...

It seems that the pronouncement of the death of blogs has become a geek meme. And as the number of posts that transmit it increases, the traffic on my blog increases.

Carlos Soto said...

I'm so glad you're still a blogger! I've learned a lot over the years, in my own paintings, by reading and studying them. It's too bad social media has moved at the pace it has,with memes, videos of this or that, always trying to wow, wow, wow! As if blogs were the tortoise and social media is the hare. So maybe good solid information ultimately wins in the end-hopefully. It has for me anyway. Thanks for staying dedicated James!

Bobby La said...

I'm with Carlos. I resent any time I spend in the digital realm and don't care for FB, Twitter, Instagram or hardly any other blogs for that matter. I have borrowed my partners FB thingy to comment here (she doesn't mind) because I'm a bit of a luddite and a bit lazy and don't care for too much connectedness. It keeps me away from the garden and my desk. I do heartily enjoy your blog though James because it is just soooo helpful, honest and enlightening.

Regards Ross McLeod (Bobby La's partner)

Robert J. Simone said...

Guess that makes me an old school surfer to a large degree.

James Gurney said...

Thanks, everyone for the good cheer.

Ross, I know you've told me a million times that you're really not Bobby, and I apologize for calling you Bobby in the past. Good idea to keep up with the gardening.

Robert, up with Old School Surfing!

Larry, Yes, and it's ironic come to think of it that I found out about the Iranian ex-prisoner's blog post via a link on Twitter. Don't know how else I would have found out about it. So I guess the various channels all reinforces each other.

Doug, yes, I love the fact that you can search anything you want in the embedded search box. You can also google a site search in the browser window, such as for example --- easel ---and it will turn up all the posts about that topic.

Dustin, thanks for coming by, and there's no obligation to comment of course.

Robert, yes, Abbott's photos are wonderful. Like a time machine to NYC in the '30s.

Robyn Jorde said...

i enjoy Pinterest and YouTube rabbit holes, especially when they lead me to good longer form content, like articles or blogs. Yours is required reading every day. Thanks for being such a faithful blogger!

Steve said...

The Night Watch photo is...depressing. In the painting, the drummer on the right seems to be looking at the Heads Down Tribe, readying his drumsticks for action that will jar them from their screen trance.

bernicky said...

Aziz Asari's commented on Freakonomics Radio that "I read the Internet so much I feel like I'm like on page a million of the worst book ever." He is among the few.

Most of us have a small group of sites we visit on a regular basis. There are only so many hours in a day and only so much time you can spend looking at links. We find what we like, want or need. Decrying the current state of the Internet is akin to the nostalgia for main street independent store owners after the big mall with the Walmart or Target was built on the highway outside of town. It's not that people don't appreciate the small places it's just that they will find more of what they need with less effort at the mall.

I've been blogging since 1997. When I started most bloggers were blogging in a particular niche and, like you, did so to share experience and information. Blogging now is considered a for profit enterprise and a lot of great personal blogs have gone by the wayside. I found this one via YouTube and thank you for both the blog, videos and sharing your knowledge with those of us who are trying to learn to make art.

James Gurney said...

Steve, you've added yet another phrase to our family lexicon: "Heads Down Tribe." That, plus "Organic Poetry."

Well put, Bernicky. The changes in the Internet has been so gradual that I never really noticed it until I thought about it. Like everyone else I guess, I tend to go to a lot of the same few sites.

Karl Kanner said...

James! I just wanted to chime in and say thank you for all the wonderful posts you've made. I check this blog every day along with LinesAndColors and a few others to get my much needed art fix. I still spend lots of time combing the internet for new blogs, new artists to study, new techniques to try and new artwork to lose myself in but your blog almost always has something i want without having to go far.

Leif said...

James, your term "kiosk media" is very apt -- it is part of my vocabulary now!

Beyond all other considerations, just the careful intelligence with which you select items, write about them, and respond to comments makes this blog special and worthwhile. "Kiosk media" term is just one example of that.

Forum posts are another area where one often pulls up search results on specific items, and those can be helpful, but they're often a nightmare to make sense of because with a forum, nobody has that sense of responsibility and ownership, and you get a lot of sloppy writing that's hard to decipher.

So, please keep it up, and know that your blog is a shining example and very useful.