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  Architecture and Blogging  
  Published in AIA AssociateNews, July 2005 - Edition 28  


While Rem Koolhaas may bemoan the slowness of architecture, attesting that the process takes an average of five years from start to finish, the same can be said about print journalism. While the lag time can’t be measured in years, the news featured in magazines like Architecture and Architectural Record can be weeks or even months behind. Web pages – in particular web logs, or blogs – furnish readers with news about architecture and design almost immediately. And while great web pages like ArchNewsNow and Arcspace deliver news and reviews in a timely fashion, they aren’t as fast as blogs and they typically follow the same rules as printed magazines, like fact-checking and editorial review. Blogs, on the other hand, are usually independently-run entities that don’t follow these rules, a trait that makes them unique but also makes them dangerous. But in today’s age of information overload, the reader already has a greater responsibility of what to read, who to trust, and what to believe, so blogs become an additional ingredient in the mix.

In addition to characteristics of speed, blogs have four things in their favor: ease of publishing, ability to opine, ability to create news, and immediate reader feedback. Posting to my page (A Daily Dose of Architecture) is as easy as 1. Clicking “Create New Post”, 2. Adding content (ok, not so easy, but I’ll get more in depth to this step soon), 3. Clicking “Publish Post”. Immediately it is available to anybody with access to the internet and it’s also delivered via a feed to anybody subscribing to the blog.

Of course, step 2 above is the most important step, and the ability to opine and create news is one of the best aspects of blogging. Many blogs merely provide links to other web pages, be them news, online journals, or other blogs (I’ll admit I’m guilty of that, especially when I’m too busy to devote much time to the endeavor). But if something strikes my fancy and I want to express my take on it, I have my own forum to share those ideas, and sometimes those posts are linked to and then are shared with even more people.

In terms of creating news, many of the web pages that follow print standards use press releases and other industry means to decide what news is, but bloggers can initiate a topic or provide a spin on something that then can spread around the internet. The recent awarding of an Urban Design Award to Frank Gehry by the Congress for New Urbanism is a good example. What might have received a paragraph or two in print and online magazines was made into a big topic of conversation by many people who believed that the award was puzzling, possibly unwarranted, and probably a publicity ploy. In addition these opinions would not be expressed in other places, and the discourse it creates (when intelligent and considered) can only help the shaping of the built environment.

Which brings us to the last aspect of blogs that sets them apart from typical journalism: reader feedback. As quickly as I post an entry to my blog, somebody can respond with a comment. They can tell me I’m right, I’m wrong, I forgot to consider this, I forgot to consider that, etc. It’s an exchange of ideas that (hopefully) leads to an exchange of interesting insights and ideas. And while many people use comments as a forum for personal insults and other nastiness, it is the nature of free-speech in our information society that as readers we must weed out the good from the bad, the intelligent from the condescending.

But I’d like to end this on a positive note. Since starting my blog as an extension of my first web page (A Weekly Dose or Architecture), I have been fortunate enough to make contact with many people around the country and around the world – sometimes in person – that I wouldn’t have been fortunate to “meet” otherwise. In this way, blogging expands the architectural community. It brings various people together in an unspoken, but shared, goal of improving our surroundings through unmediated presentation, criticism, and discussion.

:: Text © John Hill

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