Friday, June 29, 2007

Everybody's got a theme!

What is it with day of the week themes for blogging? Game Friday, Metaverse Friday... And don't get me started on the knit bloggers day of the week obsession - which I won't go into, because we are museum professionals here, not knitters. It's hard to knit and catalogue objects at the same time....

Back to the question at hand: Why do we love themes? I think it's the love of structure. As a people, we like to know what's going to happen and when it's going to happen. If we're at a museum, we (generally) like to know which way we're headed and why. Paleontological museums usually start in the distant past and work up to the present. I'm quite certain I would be confused and frustrated if they choose certain alternative structures - like grouping eras by rhyming! or average number of papers published per creature! Certain alternative structures could make sense - like examining by life form - but it would be more difficult to understand the large picture.

So, structure is good. Structure in blogging is useful. *gasp* Did I just say that? Me, with my willy-nilly way? Structure is useful? Yes. Yes it has its uses. I like weekly features. I even like posts with specific images that signal certain non-weekly features. It gives me a sense of "oh yes, I know what's coming next, I'll be sure to read that." Alternatively it could give me a sense of "oh yes, I know what's coming next, that's usually rubbish. NEXT!." So that danger is present. I would wager the same issue crops up in exhibit texts.

Another potential danger with structure is too much structure. Museums love structure. We thrive on structure. We NEED structure to fulfill our missions. It's necessary. But when blogs become over-structured, with too many headers and features, they run the risk of becoming online, staggered, magazines. In my opinion, blogs should not be overrun by article style writing. Good writing is invaluable, absolutely, although definitions of what "good writing" is depends greatly on the reader.

I am hugely resistant to over-policying, over-proceduring, over-structuring blogs. While I acknowledge that policy, procedure, and structure are good and useful, I feel as if, when it comes to blogs, museums are tempted to maintain the usual amount of control. Too much institutional control, and a museum blog runs the risk of becoming boring. I know there are many restrictions, but museums bloggers usually do a good job of walking the line between policy and boring. Would I blog institutionally the same way I blog here? Probably not.

I could beat this horse to death a dozen times, and I might have already. But I feel as if it's a central source of tension between the institution of the museum and the format of the blog.


Topic change! To paraphrase the immortal words of Denise Williams: Let's hear it for the girls! Leslie Madden-Brooks of Museum Blogging highlights the women of the museum blogosphere. Does the women-to-men ratio in museum blogging accurately reflect the women-to-men ratio of museum professionals? I'm not sure it does quite yet (in my class of 24, there were 3 men). But we've got things to say and we're saying them.

1 comment:

Richard said...

From an inside perspective, themes are serving several purposes.

As you mention its nice for readers to have something to expect. I'd been enjoying Nina's Game Friday and thought a focus on metaverses would be a nice complement.

But for me at least it also helpful to have a commitment to blog. It's easy to get busy and say "I'll blog about that later." Later never comes. So knowing I'm responsible for it is good incentive to get it done.

We've actually decided to move MVF to a bi-weekly schedule so we can get other things in between.