B) Lovink (Reader, page 222) also argues that: “No matter how much talk there is of community and mobs, the fact remains that blogs are primarily used as a tool to manage the self”.
Discuss ONE of these arguments giving an example of a blog. Specify chosen argument in your answer.
Lovink’s argument is attractive because it takes into account the wide array of options available to bloggers and the underlying motivations that their writers hold. There’s certainly a lot of dross out there on the Internet, purely because – like any tool or medium – it can be used just as badly as it can be used effectively. I’m going to use the example of the blog run by Bradford Cox, the frontman of the band Deerhunter as well as his own solo project Atlas Sound, to analyse aspects of Lovink’s argument and how they might apply.
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Cox is certainly not the first musician or artist to use a blog to communicate with his fans. Many artists use dedicated websites, Twitter, or profiles on Myspace or Facebook to try and gain an effective online foothold. However what sets Cox and others apart is that he manages his blog personally, allowing him to communicate directly with his fans.
Although it appears to be a kind of band blog it really operates as a very effective tool to manage the self; or rather, to manage the way in which Cox is perceived by others. Plagued by a host of well-documented health issues, Cox is given the medium to communicate his issues with fans, accompanied by a vast array of his own music which he releases for free on the blog, as well as Youtube videos.
The success of this approach, relative to that used by the majority of bloggers, is demonstrated by Cox’s use of the website to respond to controversy in 2008 (the original post is now deleted but the text can be read at Pitchfork.com). Essentially, Cox had uploaded demos of his latest album to what he had thought was a secure profile on Mediafire, unaware that they could be accessed by the public – the files were subsequently leaked. Through the blog, Cox was able to directly address the issue.
Lovink quotes Claire E. Write’s dictum to aspiring bloggers:
“The essence of a blog is not the interactivity of the medium: it is the sharing of the opinions and thoughts of the blogger”.
Here Write is arguing against the comment facility on blogs and other online platforms, saying that it should be disabled to minimize distractions from the content of the site. This philosophy would be a welcome if belated approach to many aspects of online information and entertainment. A trip to almost any single video on Youtube will reveal a vast array of comments which are either completely irrelevant or often simply abusive. The same holds true for online news services: what real purpose is being achieved by the comments section on a news story?
Returning to Cox’s blog, he has disabled the comments section, and in the controversial post mentioned above directed readers who wished to vent their spleens to the separate message board maintained by the band.
Lovink’s argument demonstrates that blogs can be extremely effective tools, but that they have to be used correctly in order to achieve this outcome. This can be done by disabling comments and engaging in direct communication in order to manage the self.
Lovink, G., 2008, ‘Blogging, the Nihilist Impulse’ in Zero Comments: Blogging and Critical Internet Culture, pp. 1-38.