Has anyone started doing research on aesthetics of blog writing? I would like to reflect on the way I wrote the Fake China, and what I was trying to achieve.
I have long been obsessed with the image of the mosaic to describe what I want my writing to be like: small, hard little square, light-reflecting, which together form a larger image – and can serve a utilitarian function – are solid enough to be trampled on, or eaten on, without damage. That’s a bit vague. Another way of putting it, is to think of my writing as fragments, or pieces, which connect in a global pattern, and together form a general picture, by the way they reflect on one another. That would be a set of interconnected short stories, poems, or a polyphonic novel. But – and that was the exhilarating thing I discovered – the blog form was particularly pliable to what I had in mind!
I wanted to write about my time in China (a simple travel blog, so my friends could now about my experiences there). I also wanted to reflect, more generally about one aspect: the ‘fake’, mixed, cross-cultural coastal China. I decided the best way to go about it – for me – was to write a series of vignettes, each focussing on one place, experience or ‘concept’. A form soon emerged: text and photographs, alternating one paragraph of text with one photograph – both reflecting on each other.
Once I had the form, the themes came up. Some I had been thinking about before – the Great Wall and the Grand Canal; travels around East Asia; Chinese ‘pop’ graphics; karaoke, etc. Others emerged as I travelled. I listed them – a list which kept expanding; took a few notes, or drafted them as I went. And I took photos, when I went out exploring, with a particular post in mind. Ultimately, as if I was preparing a rather detailed proposal for a documentary film project. But the blog form, with its list of single post, allowed me to bring together a strong of reflection, photos, and travel anecdotes, then close them, and open another. Some deeper themes emerged – captured by tags and keywords. But I like how this is not a consistent essay, novel, or chronological narrative. It is, really, a kaleidoscopic work of writing.
I had been thinking about this for a while, inspired by long conversations with my ex-partner, Jean Francois Laplenie, who was (and still is) doing research on German musical aesthetics. In particular, I have been meditating often on an article he wrote on the Lied-cycle form, as the ultimate expression of German Romanticism: capturing totality through fragments. The Lied cycle consists of independent pieces, which nonetheless echo each other – through repeated words, or through repeated musical segments. There is also motivation to how they follow each other – a key change, a repeated note. But all of this is non-systematic. They form a totality, but that totality is not a clear system, the shape of which can be directly visible to the eye.
I would like to reflect more in depth, looking at other self-contained blog and internet projects, such as Philip Thiel’s ‘a year with‘ series, and try to write a collective work on the aesthetics of online writing, identifying writer and artists’ projects and formal designs, and reflecting on possible sources and parallels in history.