Yesterday, I participated in a fascinating full-day “unconference” at Melbourne’s Wheeler Centre for Books, Writing and Ideas on the topic of cultural bloggers and online criticism.
As the Wheeler Centre’s website notes:
Unconferencers set the agenda on the day of the event so it kicked off with a discussion of the “amateur” status of bloggers. This was inspired in part by Alison Croggon’s article “The Return of the Amateur Critic” asking why bloggers are often thought of as amateurs. This led into a discussion of money and how bloggers can monetise their places on the web.
Games writer Paul Callaghan led a discussion of how criticism could be applied to video games, including concepts such as establishing what makes a “good” game and how appropriate it is to create a canon of games or get non-gamers to review games because they bring ideas from film or arts criticism. Reference was made to a New Yorker article by Nicholson Baker in which he looks through the eyes of a gamer and non-gamer.
Angela Meyer led the discussion on Twitter and how it can be employed as a critical tool. She’s had some success getting followers to write reviews and then retweeting them.
Croggon’s recent piece for the ABC is worth drawing your attention to. For those of you who don’t know her work, Croggon is one of Australia’s most widely-respected (and yes, even feared) online theatre critics. In her piece, she observes that those forecasting he death of Criticism, Literature and The Humanities As We Know them are profoundly mistaken:
I’ve been a keen netizen and observer since the mid-90s, and I figure that, as with the Bible, everything you might say about the internet is true. Yes, it is a bewildering sea awash with trash, populated by subterranean creatures with the social graces and charm of Darth Vader’s TIE fighters. Yes, it represents late capitalism at its most pornographically decadent. Yes, its crassness and illiteracy can surpass belief.
And yes, the internet is where I can find some of the most dynamic and intelligent commentary on art and society. This is especially true of discussion about theatre, which as a sub-section of Showbiz has always been poorly attended in Australia’s daily press. As a nexus for various arts – music, performance, visual art, literature, digital design and so on – theatre is an outward-looking culture. Unlike literature, its public is always present in the flesh. These immediacies mean that some of the most stimulating and profound thinking about art, culture, literature and society I’ve been reading in recent years is going on in the theatre blogs.
UPDATE: Noises Off, The Guardian’s theatre blog, weighs in.