criticism and blogs – mammoth // building nothing out of something

criticism and blogs

Tim Abrahams of Blueprint Magazine has popped off his twelve-gauge on architecture blogs, charging them with failing the project of architectural criticism through ‘nostalgia’ (that nasty bogeyman of progressivism), ‘consensus’, and disconnection from the ‘real world’.  Oddly, the first name he names is that of Things Magazine.  This is odd both (a) because Things is one of the most engaging and least bloggish corners of the internet with a relationship to architecture and (b) because Things is explicitly not engaged in architectural criticism, as they kindly explain in a brief response to Abrahams.

That response ably deconstructs the charge of nostalgia, but what of the charges of consensus and disconnection?  The case Abrahams makes for disconnection is exceptionally weak, consisting of a statement (“the internet isn’t the real world”) and an example of what he would consider connected work (Venturi in Vegas, Banham in Los Angeles).  I’m not sure what to make of the claim that “the internet isn’t the real world”.  It isn’t the real world in the same sense that, say, a magazine isn’t the real world (neither are composed of the objects they are referring to), but that’s a rather trivial sense, as all discourse (including, for instance, the work of Venturi and Banham) involves reference to things not present in the work itself, which is the core of criticism.

The charge of consensus, however, is more pertinent, though perhaps misleadingly phrased and suffering from the use of the shotgun where the scalpel would be appropriate.  While I’d argue that Abrahams is inaccurate when he states that “this search for consensus is creating a general atmosphere of nostalgia”, I do think his broader point — that the desire for congeniality amongst bloggers1 combined with an inability to agree on what to do with the present produces an unwillingness to proscribe for the future — contains an important kernel of truth, which is that the architectural blogosphere, with occassional exceptions, lacks the kind of critical discourse, the back-and-forth produced by the honest representation and serious treatment of opposing arguments, which characterizes the most highly developed portions of the blogosphere as a whole.  Yet that the critical discourse of the architectural blogosphere is relatively undeveloped does not mean that it is wholly absent (as Abrahams charges), nor does it mean that it cannot develop further.  And the architectural blogosphere hardly seems to be waiting to develop consensus before it says anything significant about the future.

[1] Congeniality is good when it produces the ability to engage one’s ideological opponents seriously and in good faith, but bad when it excludes communal reflexivity (note: I’m not endorsing Mario’s opinion here, merely offering it as an example of reflexivity).

3 Responses to “criticism and blogs”

  1. Anonymous says:

    Architecture Blogs…

  2. […] blogger and because I think the group-blog format is one with a lot of potential, particularly to stir positive and useful debate.  Its hard to believe that Where is only two-and-half years old.  Fortunately Mario Ballestros is […]

  3. […] wrote about Abrahams complaint last spring here — note that, as misdirected as it was, I do think there is value in it — and rounded up […]