Sunday, December 30, 2012

Things Have Changed

I've been contemplating shutting down ghost light. Nothing new in that. I've considered shutting it down almost every year (and sometimes every month) since I started it. I've thought about creating a new blog, fresh start and all that. Somehow that doesn't feel right either. I've always felt that what I posted here I should have to live with, a log of past failures and attempts to articulate or wave furiously at something. I've been working on a website for myself and maybe once it's finished I'll have a better sense of what's going on here. Or maybe it's better to have no sense of what's going on here. Maybe that's always been the point. Having a space to say, I don't know what's going on, but look at this.

Apparently others are experiencing similar impulses. Laura Axelrod is rethinking the focus of Gasp in a dog-rolling-in-new-smells post about moving forward (How's that? I didn't even mention the p-word.) and George Hunka calls flatline on the theater blogosphere. He's probably right. Blogging is about the conversation and now it's harder to follow the conversation because it crosses platforms, even more difficult to be part of it. There is always an in and an out; the theater blogosphere was no exception (even irl it's unavoidable). Twitter and Facebook make exclusion structural, the function of a privacy setting. Ouch. Don't get me wrong, Twitter and Facebook are great tools. Lots of noise obviously, but I have a good many conversations on both. Friends post things that collapse the physical distance between us in surprising ways. Thanks to one particularly active, politically vocal friend, my newsfeed operates as my research assistant gathering material for the trilogy of plays I'm writing. For all that, I'm closer to deleting my Facebook account. The sponsored ads infuriate me. I feel my love crack a little more each day.

Even the Web feels broken.

These things are related. In the early days, blogging was a phenomenon that few people understood. Marketers and advertisers were stumped by Web 2.0 and the rise of the blogosphere. How do you monetize it? How do you distribute content? How do you capture eyeballs? No one has figured it out yet. Sponsored ads are just one way to go. You can't delete them from your stupid Facebook feed. Anyone can buy a sponsored ad, democratization in its most convoluted sense (also check out Broken On Purpose: Why Getting It Wrong Pays More Than Getting It Right.) If you want the eyeballs...you got to have the $$$. Facebook, like television, is a delivery system. The product is you. We know that. And we don't. It still surprises me to see how many people click on ads or "like" products or evil big box stores, do so willingly and watch their feed (and mine) fill up with ads.

I digress.

The theater blogosphere isn't dying. It's reconfiguring. Early theater bloggers were the edge because it was all so new. It  was a frontier with many of the frontier's gunslinging attributes. Now the late adopters and institutions have taken over that space. Fewer flame wars, more institutional poaching and controlling the flow of our thinking and conversation...er...facilitating our conversation. I also realize there are good folks with good intentions and they've done/are doing good things, many already mentioned by Laura and George: HowlRound, 2amt and Culturebot (my favorite). Curation has claimed the linking and contextualizing aspect of blogging. Time to move on and claim a new space. As irl, the context for performance and theater is changing, so too for writing and thinking about these things in the blogosphere.

The space to think, to publicly claim a space to think and interact, to generate community free of product placement and marketing, free of commodification is still necessary, maybe even more so than six years ago. Blogging is still a good vehicle for these kinds of interactions and the ability to think and engage critically about anything is even more essential. 

So ghost light.

One of the things I've loved doing on ghost light is publishing my source material. I've had to stop because my blog doesn't fly under the radar any more and unfortunately, it's too easy and tempting for others to lift content and use it without my permission. I've thought that what I published was fairly obscure and it's purpose oblique enough that I could share material, but it's just not wise to continue to put it out there. This has been a hard decision, but since summer I've been posting all source material on private blogs. It's now available by invitation only. I may occasionally share some little nugget on ghost light, but never again to the extent I have in the past.

My aspiration for this blog has always been to write criticism and I've defaulted to posting source material because it's just easier (the list of excuses is long and unsurprising). Lately, I've been reading the inimitable Ming-Zhu Hii's posts and they've been inspiring me in many ways - as calls to arms, sustenance and contemplations. It's time to put the light back on. What will I use this space for? More exploration of performance and process, more deeply considered writing. There will still be space for musical obsessions. No doubt. 


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