In the past few weeks I’ve been exploring other platforms than Blogger since they’ve turned all sniffy and Tea Party about sex, nudity and so on. So far Tumblr is the best in some ways and, though I’m sort of reluctant to admit it, Blogspot (which is Blogger which is Google) still has the best features, though I can’t manage the basic Tumblr templates very well. (I use it more to read than to write.) There’s a circular feedback effect here -- these two are so big and stable that they have an advantage, though when they start fooling around, things can get hairy and threadbare at the same time. It depends on where they put their energy. Of course, the energy goes into profit.
Thematic.co is fine and a good idea but a LOT of work because of having to think of a theme, organize the materials, and go through complex steps. Still the results are happy. There don’t seem to be many people signing up or posting, which could cause the program to collapse. I’m finding that the readers are not sophisticated: they don’t handle irony or social criticism. (e.g. my posts about my wedding or about my father’s love of nude fanny shots of babies.) In short, they’re like my relatives. Everything is innocent. Images for painful interpretation become scrapbooking, harmless. This platform, more than the others mentioned here, is infested with the locust hordes of underemployed females who insist on studying their umbilical urges in the mistaken belief that they’re unique. They think that putting hearts and flowers in the comments is a good thing and might lead to romance. “How true.” and “the wedding pics are so beautiful!”
Medium.com is a little unwieldy, too, though far more worldly, with a journalist’s pop culture interests. When any platform starts out, it tends to have an experimental penalty in that features come and go while they’re being worked on. Some days the photos are acquired easily, other days the “respond” feature is gone. It can change over hours. I imagine some experiments just don’t work and cyber-stuff tends to have so many cross-connections in the program itself that sometimes big sections evidently have to be shut down at once.
Beyond that, the providers -- like 3 Rivers Communications, my provider -- often don’t grow enough to bear the traffic. They tend to serve their business clients -- billing and ordering -- but not to realize that anything else is there or has value. Essays? Poetry? Video? You’ve gotta be kidding. And why would a little village like Valier need fiber optics? It’s got to be user error. Kid stuff.
The newest platform and the one I was finding exciting for a while is ideas.aeon.com. It’s based in England and the premise is that it is particularly interested in fine long-form writing about progressive ideas. The trouble is that the category creates a monoculture: liberal academics. The fact that their rules forbid graphic sex or violence shuts down things even more. “Do not post graphic content. Nudity, pornography, gore and violence are not allowed.” But do they mean pictures of fucking and beheading, or do they mean discussion of the phenomena?
I have a feeling they mean that ideas.aeon.com is a refuge from the world. Aeon.com, the parent entity, is an eclectic and wonderfully various online mag with a video dimension, which is by far the more interesting collection of material. But ideas.aeon.com is kind of flat, like the results of a graduate school essay test. Or coffee hour after the sermon at an upscale UU congregation. So nice. So unaware of anything outside this context. (The “coffee” was deemed dangerous for a while, so tea was served -- then herbal tea. Paler and paler. Then the media claimed that coffee maybe might under some circumstances tend to be good for the heart, and everyone went back to coffee.)
It’s a little like do-gooder syndrome, meaning people who know about terrible things (sexual, violent, impoverished) and therefore want to help -- or so they think -- but the presumable beneficiaries run like hell because the “help” always comes down to imposing the do-gooder values. Stop the drinking and drugs. Get rid of lice. Require indoor sleeping. Change your vocabulary. Formal classes.
For years I’ve been writing for a variety of readers, but I do have a bit of a skew. Sometimes I take on local issues, sometimes philosophical issues, but at the core I’ve been writing to a collection of people who are not even in the United States and whose interests and assumptions are smart, experience-based, and boundary-less. The quality of their writing is high in terms of effectiveness and fitting the topic, but not academic or even literary in conventional “chattering class” style. In fact, “shocking.” Full of empathy, which itself can be shocking in terms of what real empathy can force a person to see and feel.
Imagine the nice German upper class lady who “loves Indians” when she goes to a place -- maybe a rez, maybe not -- that is full of staggering drunk street people who appear to be “Indians.” Major perceptual dissonance. Some writing is like that. I look for it. I recommend Adrian C. Louis, defiant and obscene as he can be, not Sherman Alexie, looking to disarm everyone but not their check-writing arm. Of course, it’s nicely titillating to read about danger, but something else to stand in front of a big smelly rude Indian on a strange sidewalk.
Last summer I got exasperated with people taking me for granted and patronizing what I wrote or playing Eric Berne games. I dumped most of them. There’s a certain kind of older man invested in his own prestige that wanted to do his grouse-lek dances on my knob of land. Bleah. Lately I’ve been contacting a few old friends and now think of them when I’m at the computer, which changes both my subjects and the way I “enter” them. They appreciate the “Thematic” sequences of photos because sometimes they were there.
On the rez there is another dynamic that is about content. Missionaries and English teachers have so criticized any expression from the captured denizens that the latter have become very wary of exposing their real selves. They write cautiously, watching teacher’s face for clues to acceptance. If you accidentally hear them talking among themselves, their world is different. Not because they have access to some special privileged and genetically generated world, but because they’ve been forced into a kind of prison culture where a code is needed to protect secrecy. They are pretending to be part of the larger culture just enough to participate in it. Some of them get so good at it that it’s safe for them to leave the rez.
So I asked two questions on IdeasAeon -- the good part is that one CAN do that -- which turns out to be mostly the same old monoculture of youngish tech-savvy men who believe their writing is -- as the rules of the site require -- “clear and concise” and “aim to add new ideas and arguments instead of repeating what has already been said,” “all the while being generous and constructive.” This is killer stuff. Suppression. Keeping order. Adrian C. Louis is not welcome. Then they wonder why there are so few new ideas, so little energy.
Looking at the difference between Ideas.aeon.com and the mag “Aeon.com,” I think the difference is in the community guidelines for the Ideas. I think that Tumblr, which is rather famous for its tolerance, and Medium, which still seems vigorously various, will prevail.