Saturday, November 15, 2008
Blogs as Wunderkammern
I'm writing an actual academic paper which I will be presenting in February to the College Art Association's national meeting, about Blogs as Wunderkammern. I will be discuss the ways in which blogs emulate the same kind of exploration/bringing back oddities/presentation as the old Wunderkammern. The similarities go right through, including the re-emergence of systems of personal taxonomies defining the order of the collection, and the blossoming culture of exploration and idea-making.
With, of course, a modern twist. One of the things I find fascinating about this idea is the way that the vision of a Wunderkammer has become such a conceptual one; people seem to feel that it applies to all kinds of things. And, of course, blogging being a virtual medium, it follows that it should be a conceptual home-base of sorts.
I'm in the thick of trying to construct this paper, written of course in serious ArtSpeak, and it's really hard to wrap my head around the blog at the same time, though I keep taking rushes at a post on calculation through history. You'd think I could do it, given that the paper only has to be some 2,200 words long; but it's surprisingly difficult (especially given the way I seem to need to be dragged kicking and screaming to the keyboard). But no, my brain is curiously slow this month. However, I'll put the abstract below, and you can see what you think. Don't mind the language!
Though I think I've got a good handle on the paper, I'd welcome your thoughts on the topic. How is a blog like a Wunderkammer?
Abstract for Blogging as Wunderkammer:
Finding Authentic-ness in Virtual Collections and Personal Taxonomies
The contemporary perception of Wunderkammern has little to do with the ostentatious acquisition which drove the rich collectors who assembled them during the era of exploration and idea-making of the 16th and 17th centuries. At its most specific and physical, our contemporary vision is based on the aged and fragile remnants of the old Wunderkammern, which appear to us intimate, tactile and many-layered, with apparently whimsical taxonomies which depended on the personal world-view of the collector - very different from the sublime and overawing superstructure of the museums which they later became. In a broader sense, though, this image of the original Wunderkammer has become a metaphor for authenticness and a sense of wonder: something which lasts through history, full of mysterious meaning, presented in the intimacy of one’s home. And as a metaphor, it is appropriate that it be found in a metaphorical medium.
Blogging, more than any cultural technology, allows for an approach to wonder in an intimate and often apparently whimsical environment: bloggers present a collection of images, ideas, and objects in a style and order specific to his or her own vision: a personal taxonomy. The software encourages the collection to be accessed according to flexible parameters, allowing movement through different kinds of “rooms”, depending on the viewer’s interests.
Additionally, the blogging format invites blog collections to intermingle transparently: people can “add” to their catalog of items through blogrolls, blog memes, and, especially, polite appropriation: as blogs work with one another, greater Wunderkammern are created. A slow collapse in the authority of centralized taxonomies and top-down culture-making has left an opening for the re-emergence of personal taxonomies in a different era of exploration and the connection of ideas. Steampunk and Clockpunk are lively examples of subcultures that ignore the mass-market paradigm; participants are often as satisfied with virtual images of “real” things as they are with actually owning them, which appears to be less important than the idea of its perceived authenticness - unlike the original Wunderkammern, for which ownership was paramount, and authenticity secondary. The viewer is no longer simply an onlooker to another person’s riches, but a participant, invited not just to move through intimate collection-spaces in the same way people were invited to wander through the Wunderkammern of old, but to take from it and build their own.