Visual Blogs

Does this mean that future weblogs should favour image over text? To do so would be to the detriment of the medium as it is the combination of words and images presented over time that make the visual blog what it is. Yet the contributions that images can make within weblogs should not be underestimated they act as a way of catching our attention and turning a glance into a sustained appraisal but as the examples discussed in this paper show, images are more than mere decoration. A rapport is quickly established between images and words in weblogs where one supports and enhances the other. If blogging continues to develop as it currently is with images becoming an increasingly common element, it seems reasonable to expect that visual blogging will evolve from being a subset of the phenomenon and will strike out on its own a medium in its own right. –Meredith BadgerVisual Blogs (Into the Blogosphere)

As a textual person, I’m uncomfortable with Badger’s formulation of the Internet is something that “we tend to glance at”. Glancing (or skimming, or, as Jakob Nielsen would call it, scanning) is one of many strategies that we use when we access information on the Internet. If we do glance, at least some of the time we do because we are looking for something to read (or consult, or archive, etc.). I think she conflates the Internet with the World Wide Web, since usenet and e-mail existed on the Internet as primarily textual media long before the arrival of the WWW (and blogs).

Being made uncomfortable is often a good thing, so I’m not complaining about it. I enjoyed the intellectual exercise of being asked to think of blogs as something to “view” rather than something to “read” — although I noticed that Badger still refers to us as “readers” of blogs.

In my BlogTalk article, a section called “Metaphor, Language, and Genetics” touches on multimedia blogging in the context of a visual “fisking” of a politically charged news article. I appreciated reading what a visual rhetorician was able to bring to an examination of blogs. I do find it odd that the article uses the term “photoblog” only in the title of a cited work. Instead, Badger introduces “vlog” late in the article.

I’m not sure what to make of Badger’s claim that the Internet destabilizes images, since she makes that claim just before introducing a series of photos, in which each one reveals a bit more about a narrative that unfolds. Is it the images that are destabilized, or the reality the image is purported to depict? Isn’t narrative about telling, while images are about showing? Perhaps I’m just too unfamiliar with the rhetoric of visual discourse to know whether these hairs really need to be split.

Blogging from a mobile phone equipped with a camera opens up a new dimension entirely. Weblogs that present images with little or no commentary are certainly worthy of examination for the insights they reveal about digital culture. But the culture of blogs includes quoting, refuting, aggregating, and networking. Until we have widespread tools that can automatically sort and file information found in digital images, it seems to me that text is still a better tool for finding patterns and trends in digital media.

And while it’s wonderful to contemplate what people CAN do if they had access to vlogs; blogs that show thoughtful and aesthetically pleasing images offer one perspective. But since textual blogs range from juvenile angst-fests to turgid academic prose, it’s also fair to examine the range of what people do with vblogs. That includes a range of emergent vulgarity, offensiveness, hilarity, and crudity such as found in the regular “Photoshop contests” on Fark (example: Photoshop Tim Burton’s version of Willy Wonka. The virtuoso digital processing often found on this site offers visual equivalents of the fisking, quoting, mis-quoting, and aggregating at work in the textual blogosphere. Fark even has a whole set of visual in-jokes, some of them generated by combining a recent image from the news with a pop culture reference. Others are purely in-jokes (I’m thinking of “cliché kitty” and “Domo-kuns). The “All Your Base Are Belong to Us” meme of a few years ago is a good reference point, as is the image of the World Trade Center tourist (to which was added an image of an approaching airplane – a darkly comic attempt at dealing with the trauma of 9/11).

A minor note: a typo in the URL of the photo of “Kaycee” — the URL should be