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Arts bloggers: the ecology of social content

June 28th, 2010 at 11:36 pm ET

I wanted to write something tonight about Graham Dunstan’s Arts Bloggers panel at the arts conference, because of all the half-dozen sessions I attended, it’s the one I think I got the most practical use out of. And it wasn’t just the panelists — the questions that were asked, and the people who asked them, sparked a wide-ranging conversation about the craft and the value of blogging as part of brand-building and audience-building.

One of the most thoughtful people who spoke up in the session (not a panelist, just an ordinary citizen like me) was Hoong Yee Lee Krakauer, who runs the Queens Council on the Arts. She is, of course, a creative and prolific blogger herself, not to mention artist, and I was blown away to discover tonight that in between making memorable comments and taking her own notes, she managed to complete four perfectly fine line drawings on her iPad in her spare time during those 90 minutes we were all in the room together. But I digress.

One of the things I think I remember Hoong Yee herself saying during the session is that good blog writing gives the reader something to react to — it has the effect of drawing the reader into a conversation that is bigger than him or her, but that also welcomes him or her to join in.

This is in contrast to, say, a newspaper op-ed, which might try to convince you of something but isn’t particularly interested in your opinion. I’m reminded of Steve Rosenbaum’s Huffington Post column on the death of the “content strategy” and of Clay Shirky’s essay “Gin, Television, and the Social Surplus” — both of which, as it happens, I read earlier today.

Each in his own way is talking about the new ecology of social content — about the irrepressible human desire not just to consume, but also to respond and to create and to share. For most of us, through most of the history of media — and I’m talking about well into my own lifetime — consumption was the only practical option most of the time. What were we going to do, start our own newspapers? (Some of us did. In elementary school, I published something called the Mintz Prints.. But, again, I digress.) Now that’s all changed, and I agree with Clay — the genie’s never going back in the bottle.

The very best social media — this applies not just to blogs, but to any media that’s meant for a participatory public — makes you feel like there’s a party going on, and you’re invited. It does so by saying so directly (“What are your thoughts on this topic?”), but also indirectly: by playing out an exchange of ideas with other blogs (e.g., as I’m doing here), by quoting and referencing the comments of “ordinary people” whom the imagined reader can relate to, by facilitating the sharing of itself through social media tools.

When an organization establishes a reputation for this kind of social media, its online audience starts to grow more quickly, as readers begin returning of their own accord (without having to be nudged by, say, an email program) to “see what’s new.” (As Graham said in the panel, it’s important when they do come back that there actually be something new for them to see. Once you set up the expectation, you do have to feed it.)

I’ll have more tomorrow about what the panelists themselves said on these important topics.


One Response to “Arts bloggers: the ecology of social content”

  1. Fractured Atlas Blog : Four Days in Charm City Says:

    [...] across the hall. This session was evidently the most blogged-about of the conference, as attendeesRich Mintz, Hoong Yee Lee Krakauer, and Devon Smith all wrote about it, as [...]

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