ESSAY #2: COURSE REFLECTIONS

I came into this class looking to develop a sort of online portfolio for my art, and created my blog, krowmeatdoesart.com, with this in mind. Later in the semester, it became clear that I wasn’t creating as much art as I had expected to. There was a lot of factors playing into it, but regardless it was difficult to find something I felt worth showcasing from my ongoing experiences as an art student. Some of the mini-assignments were useful to get me out of this funk and force me to draw with whatever I had available. On the brighter side, I had no trouble developing my website’s design, and took it as a personal challenge to work with WordPress’ themes and limitations to make the specific website I wanted.

Part of my experience with this course was trying to learn from the statistics I had been collecting for my website from September 16 to now. While my marketing didn’t really manage to attract a very large audience, I was able to glean a fair amount of serviceable data from having it up. Much of my users came from in and around the Lower Mainland (29 total), which closely reflected the fact that most of my advertising was on linked social media accounts that were connected to my previous social circles who live in the area. Through activity on Twitter I also managed to gain referrals from California, Ukraine and Germany. A sizable minority consisting of 47 of these users only had one session on my website before never returning to my website, but many of the users that did return came back for quite a few sessions. Specifically, 22 users spread across 9-25 return visits and 21 users spread across 26-50 visits.

This data that I collected was very useful to help me rework my understanding of my website’s public. When I initially set up the website, I had a vague idea of a demographic of “punk-adjacent creatives” that I wanted to attract. Instead, my posts appear to be much more popular among other students. My website’s design is tailored more towards my target audience, with stylized Sedgewick Ave font, loosely-drawn ornamentation and dark & relaxed site colours. I also tried to loosen up my writing style to make my website feel more casual overall. What I hadn’t considered was how much of an impact the subject and sharing of my content was going to affect my audience. The material on publics covered in the sixth week of this course goes some length to address this. There, publics were defined as “the social space created by the reflexive circulation of discourse”, where the sharing of content by those who are initially exposed to it is most of what cements the demographic of a public. Since I advertised to other students and wrote most of my posts around a student’s perspective of art, it only followed that those students would relate to and share my posts.

Going into this term I approached publishing with an “If you build it, they will come” philosophy. I thought of publishing as a bureaucratic and grassroots process, where the focus was mostly on getting the infrastructure necessary to release a product with advertising as a secondary concern. This perception lasted until about the third week of class, where reality was revealed to be the exact inverse. “Publication is not simply a tool, but a way to beckon a public into being” was a quote in the early slides of that lecture that stuck in my head for that week. Since the infrastructural work is increasingly streamlined by large hosting sites, the job of the creator in self-publishing a specific product to any sort of audience is less to build the tools. The tools are already there, the wikis, blogs and “one-click installers” described in W. Gardener Campbell’s article “A Personal Cyberinfrastructure”. Instead, self-publishers instead optimize the use of these tools, playing the role of curating the public. It’s an entirely different set of priorities to consider altogether.

My future beyond this class appears to be rife with opportunities to use strategies taught to me by this course. I might not continue to maintain this blog, or even self-publish in the same ways we’ve been exploring in this class, but as an art student who is frantically looking for creative projects to justify their continued existence there will inevitably come a time where I need to publicize some small-name creative excursion that I’ve decided to undertake. Methods such as “Remarkable”-based advertising that was covered by our guest speaker Darren Barefoot strike me as a particularly effective way to get a niche artistic project off the ground from where I’m at now; While I may not be able to get media attention for digital stunts, artist like Nat Puff have proven that short, shareable social media stunts can draw a lot of attention that spills over into projects associated with the stunt, or the artist’s identity as a whole.

CITATIONS

Norman, Suzanne. “Week 3: The Online Self”. The Publication of Self in Everyday Life. 11 Sep. 2019. Simon Fraser University, Vancouver, British Columbia. Lecture.

Campbell, Gardner, et al. “A Personal Cyberinfrastructure.” EDUCAUSE Review, 4 Sept. 2009, https://er.educause.edu/articles/2009/9/a-personal-cyberinfrastructure.

Barefoot, Darren. “Multiple Channels, Multiple Media”. The Publication of Self in Everyday Life. 11 Nov. 2019. Simon Fraser University, Vancouver, British Columbia. Lecture.

Kasinger, Chona, and Zing Tsjeng. “The Internet Musician Left at London Has Perfected the Art of Going Viral.” Vice, 18 Nov. 2019, https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/d3a9ax/the-internet-musician-left-at-london-has-perfected-the-art-of-going-viral-v26n4.

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