John Reeve

Musician, Artist, Technologist


Why go back to having a blog?

Why go back to having a blog?

At this point, having a blog seems almost archaic.  It’s like going back to myspace or maybe making print ‘zines, both of which I had done in the past.  Neither of those specific endeavors seems useful at this point, beyond a nostalgic desire to re-live the past.  I don’t know if kinkos is even around anymore, but the thrill of cutting and pasting a magazine worth of content is a bit lost on me at this stage in life.

Even a blog, as a collection of articles and other content that sits in one spot on the internet, is certainly not in line with the direction that things seem to be going; my teenage son doesn’t like Facebook at all and finds that even instagram is a bit long-lasting for his tastes.  Good luck in getting him to read more than 140 characters, much less getting him to write a long-form article.

I can identify with his feelings.

Looking back at things I put out into the world even two years ago is often a disconcerting feeling.  On some level it’s worse for older people than my teenage son– looking at pictures of a former wife or a former life and seeing a thing that used to be creates a feeling that hits me way harder than looking at my high school yearbook ever could have.  I am just guessing– I’ve never looked at it, really, but I assume so.  The edge of our identity which is slipping between “what we are” and “what we were in the past” is an uncomfortable thing to examine, and until the messages we send into the world slip over the uncanny valley between how we see ourselves and how we see our past selves, those messages make it hard to pretend that our current identities are stable.

A person going through rapid identity transformations can find looking at pictures from 18 months ago uncomfortable.

As I age the media creations from my 20s become more interesting to me. As their connection to my identity wanes, their value as a tool for understanding who I used to be and how I arrived where I am today waxes.  I get a lot of value out of looking at, say, my drawing notebooks from college, or the occasional caches of audio recordings that I’ve archived here or there.  To an extent, the terribleness of these things is charming because I’d never be able to make something exactly like that ever, even if I wanted to.

For instance, I’ve put a link to an old tune that I recorded in early 2007 at the bottom of this posting.  I like that, but it’s clearly not what I’d do today.

So I do like having these kinds of things to look back at, and I do like sharing my writing and music because it helps me think about the world and grow my brain… even when that growth is painful.

For all the terror that Facebook’s “share this old-ass post where you’re smiling with your ex” can generate, there are legitimate needs filled by social media.  Facebook is a solution to a kind of problem, and as is the case with most solutions like, say, alcoholism or being mean to waitstaff at restaurants, it is a solution that generates more problems than it solves.  Similarly, Soundcloud, Youtube, Instagram, and other social media outlets all solve particular problems but generate their own problems.

I’m interested in how those services work at the level of  “what problems do they solve for their users”.

Youtube solves the issue of hosting videos for me… it’s a lot easier to toss a video up there than it is for me run a video through a transcoder, upload it to the AWS cloud’s S3 service, setup a CDN to make sure that people can see it, etc.  And edge cases make things even worse.  I have the technical skills to do that work, but it is still work.  Youtube also causes some problems: if I just use them as my sole platform, then no one will see my videos.  There is a sea of content and I’m a tiny fish.  Additionally, I don’t have a lot of control over the publication:  if someone makes a copyright claim against my work it will be removed regardless of the merit of that claim.

Facebook offers a similar kind of tradeoff: they solve the problem of “how do I get my message in front of a lot of eyeballs”.  It’s super easy to post there and get my video in front of my grandma (hi, Grandmama) but at the same time they are very selective about what they actually share.  If I put a link to a youtube video up, basically no one will see it.  Or at least that’s been my experience through limited testing.  And, as with Youtube, the content is under their control.  When they go the way of MySpace and Google+, all that content “will be lost in time, like tears in rain”.

These services are more or less designed to become the sole repositories of the content that I am creating.  Unlike Myspace, where I had to create the media locally and then upload it, all these services encourage users to create directly on the platform.  That’s nice for ease of use but harmful for long-term archives.

So here’s where I am going with my own project: I want to figure out what these services offer and how to recreate the easy parts of that for myself.  I want to figure out what my own boundaries are as far what I am willing to let go as “ephemeral” art (I have no problem at all with the fact that my performances aren’t recorded and archived for posterity.  That’s a feature, not a bug).  And I want to understand what the real tradeoffs are for these different modalities of publication.

So, for now, the vehicle to do that work of understanding is a blog.

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