Unblocking the blog

6th April 2016

So just what seems to be the problem? We have a shiny new web site which, while far from perfect, is a big step on from what was here before. While we were working on how to structure the new site I argued strongly for keeping this blog somewhere near the centre. But now the blog is here I’m not completely certain what or how to post. There are many things I want to share and comment on, and (but?) I do that on Twitter all the time. Then there are things that I want to reflect on at length, had I but world enough and time. Even so, I seem to find time to do that in occasional essays and articles. But so far, apart from faltering steps towards re-starting Sunday links, I am neither sharing nor commenting nor reflecting here with any consistency. As a songsmith who never seemed to suffer from writer’s block once wrote, ‘Why an’ what’s the reason for?’*

One reason for the block might simply be that I now have no time to blog as I once did. Looking back across just over a decade I see I wrote a huge amount, about Shakespeare, about television, about arts programmes, about movies, about digital culture, about what Illuminations was up to, and even on occasion about myself. And, yes, both I and Illuminations are busy now, with me preparing Shakespeare Live! From the RSC for BBC Two and cinema screening on 23 April, as well as other performance productions later in the year. Plus participating in the major EU-funded research project 2-IMMERSE, working on several DVD releases, writing a clutch of academic articles and conference papers, and planning a couple of books. But I’m not sure I am more occupied than I once was – and anyway all of those activities should suggest things I want to write about, to test, to open up a dialogue about – and it’s really not as if I don’t have a spare moment or two when I could contribute short entries here.

Of course, there is the ‘death of blogging’ argument to consider, and there is something to this. See, for example, Mel Campbell in the Guardian in 2014, ‘Should we mourn the death of blogs?’ Or Mitch Joel, ‘The end of blogging’ (posted, significantly, to Facebook Notes). The idea, in essence, is that as social media platforms have multiplied and mutated, authors and audiences have gone elsewhere, to Twitter or Instagram or Snapchat, and that blogs feel a bit clunky, not sufficiently agile, and rather too much like hard work. Certainly it’s the case that no-one seems any longer to comment on blog posts, and that is a shame. Much of the pleasure I derived from posting before was tied up with seeing responses and responding to them in turn. Now dialogue of this kind takes place on Twitter and elsewhere, but neither that nor the slightly retro quality of blogging invalidates the idea that publishing more expansive content perhaps has a value.

There is a more particular and personal issue here also, which is my heightened sensitivity to the contradictions of trying both to blog about and at the same time be seriously engaged in producing media of different kinds. If I express critical opinions here about, say, productions from the Royal Shakespeare Company, with which I hugely value my professional relationship, might that damage the chance of that relationship continuing and flourishing? Ditto in the context of television arts programmes – although things are not quite as crude as this – are the BBC or Sky Arts going to commission me if I regularly (or even very occasionally) dump on their programmes? And yet if I simply celebrate the stuff about which I write, and hold back about other things, does that have any value for you, gentle reader? Perhaps this is over-thinking the problem, but it concerns me.

Then again, I frequently wonder quite why I need to contribute yet more writing to a world where every opinion seems already to have been expressed, every recommendation made, every enthusiasm enthused over. I know one answer to this, of course, which is that the way I and Illuminations think about and organise the world, ‘curate’ it if you like, may be of interest and perhaps even value to some who share, or indeed oppose, aspects of this. Contributing one further tiny stream to the torrent of words, words, words might be marginally useful, and in any case is unlikely to do any harm.

But… why write blog posts in the first place? Long ago, I thought that an active blog would bring people to Illuminations and that they would then buy our excellent DVDs and perhaps even commission us to make ground-breaking television and other media marvels. I don’t think it has ever worked like that, although I have met a heartening number of people who have read a post or two, and for whom that might have made them think a touch more positively towards us. There is a utility also in simply being a contributor to debate and helping to raise awareness of interesting things, whether this is a season of obscure archive television, a DVD release of an arthouse classic, or an unjustly overlooked book. Mostly, though, I have long thought that maintaining a blog is above all about personal satisfaction, about affirming things for myself that seem intriguing, about trying out notions, and sometimes about having a semi-public space to work things through. So if nothing more it needs to make sense to me, myself and I to find the time and the focus to post.

Which I definitely want to do once again, although I may need your indulgence as I stumble towards what the best forms are for here. Is there, for example, a place for a single link, a one-sentence remark, an embedded video with much (or any) commentary? If so, and if I can complement those posts with occasional more considered ones, like this, then perhaps that will have a value – and even develop a modest audience. Who knows, but one or two of you might even be prompted to test our Comments capability?

* from Bob Dylan’s truly great Who Killed Davey Moore?

Image: detail from Jan Ekels (II), A Man Writing at his Desk, 1784, courtesy of the enlightened Rijksstudio image policy at Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum.

Comments

  1. Kirk McElhearn says:

    As Bob said:

    Inside the museums, Infinity goes up on trial
    Voices echo this is what salvation must be like after a while
    But Mona Lisa musta had the highway blues
    You can tell by the way she smiles

  2. Blogging is a civilised activity. It denotes, and reflects, character. It has more solidity than a tweet, and much more purpose. It should help to promote ideas and advertise resources, but it should also be its own reward. So I pray that this one continues.

    The fall in commenting is a disappointment, I agree. The volume of spam means that blog owners have to put approval systems in place first, which dampens enthusiasm, and services like Twitter encourage the instantaneous. There might be a way to marry a blog post to comments on Twitter, though I’m not sure that it would work any better in the long run. But a blog should be its own justification, even without a string of comments to extend the argument.

  1. […] This post of from John Wyver .  John is a writer and media producer. He is a historian of television with a particular interest in broadcasting, film and the arts.  He is also responsible for the theatre based prototypes we are developing in 2-Immerse.  For more blog posts from John, look here. […]

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