LJ Art

Wow, that colourquiz thing everyone’s doing makes me sound like a self-centered, neurotic mentalist. So, in keeping with my general policy of only being one of those three things at a time, I am not posting the details of me results.

Instead, I am going to tell you a story.

Four score and seventy years ago… was rather a lot before I was born. So we’ll skip over the intervening years and leap right to 1998, when I was working alone in a room that had no windows, but compensated by having a really bloody impressive fire extinguishing system. (Seriously: in the event of fire, I had 20 seconds to leave the room before it sealed itself and flooded with some kind of toxic gas. Happily, there were no fires.)

I spent quite a lot of time in that job basically using the web to teach myself all sorts of things, mostly either technical or about writing. Sites like Fray were a big influence on my thinking about the web at the time, and while I don’t read Fray regularly any more, it remains one of my touchstones for thinking about what makes a good website.

(Incidentally, I lied – I’m not telling you a story. Make up your own story, and pretend I told it to you. Pretend it had cyborg ninja mad scientists in it. It was probably quite good.)

Fray, of course, was one of the earliest social network sites. After every story, there’s a “share your experiences” bit (hell, if you dig around, you can probably turn a few of my responses up) and after a while, you started to notice the same names recurring, at least on the more interesting responses. And it had some of the “wow, that’s a really intimate secret they’re sharing” value of postsecret or even group hug (before it became a weird kind of oneupmanship with so much obvious fiction) do.

I’m reminded of this, because I’ve been listening to Alan Moore today, and the line in Snakes and Ladders “Seeing Art we recognise a thought we had but could not utter, are made less alone” reminded me of something I’ve been meaning to talk about in relation to the web, and specifically LJ for a while.

Only, as with every time I set out to do it, I find myself stuttering out. There’s something in my head about the idea of social networks as Art, and it’s trapped in there. I can’t seem to find the clear language to express it. I know that LJ is not, of itself Art. (Except in that computer code may or may not be art.) And most people’s LJs aren’t Art. But I do wonder about the idea of keeping an LJ as an art experiment. Not, you understand, a place to put fiction or any other made-up content. Fiction is not LJ specific. If we accept that the point of an LJ is, as with a private journal, to record the real, true things that happen as part of life, then surely it must be possible to make keeping an LJ into Art.

People have done it with websites, up to a point. Jason Kottke runs his blog as a full time career. I’m not saying that what he does is definitely Art, but y’know, it’s a creative, communicative, endeavour, so it’s got to be at least most of the way there.

But I know from experience – there’s a massive difference between keeping a weblog and an LJ. The social context is everything. The secret of LJ’s success is the word “Friends”.

So how would one go about keeping an LJ that was Art?

God, the shit that rattles around in my head.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *